He Ain’t Heavy

Posted on 27 January 2011 by LeslieM

A dear friend of mine recently learned that her sister was diagnosed with cancer. My friend has her own health issues and she has plenty of other tsouris (problems) going on in her life. But, when she heard about her little sister’s ills, that became her focus. She did everything she could think of for her — she called, she texted, she researched, she planned a trip to see her just so she could hold her hand.

Many people who know her might have thought that she had a huge weight to bear, but as I watched I couldn’t help but think of that famous song title “He ain’t heavy … he’s my brother.” Do you know the story behind those words? Back near the beginnings of WW2, there was a magazine called The Messenger. A priest happened to be reading that magazine and came across a picture of a boy carrying a younger lad on his back and the caption read, “He ain’t heavy Mr., he’s my brother.”

The Priest was none other than Father Flanagan, the founder of Boy’s Town, who changed it just a tad and used it as the catch phrase for his mission.

Why did that phrase touch him so much? Because, years earlier, Boys Town had a lad who had difficulty walking and the other boys would take turns giving him rides on their backs.

I am blessed with two amazing brothers. I hope that, even in the midst of what my friend’s baby sister is going through, that she knows how blessed she is with such an incredible big sister. Sadly, too many people have distanced themselves from their siblings. They have let petty differences get in the way of the love.

Let me share a story with you about two brothers. It is a true story. There is a three-year age difference between the boys — the elder one 13, the younger 10.

I can assure you that, like any other siblings, they had times they got angry with each other, they had times they fought, and they had times they pointed the finger of blame at the other. But they were brothers, and there was a great connection, a great love between them. In the middle of January of this year, they were in the car with their mother on a drive through the streets of Australia when they and their car were swept away by the raging waters of a flood. The three of them were struggling for their very lives. A heroic rescuer dove into the waters to save them and the first one he came to was Jordan, the older of the two boys. He reached him with a rope and this little child of G-d, this Bar Mitzvah-age boy, shouted out, “Save my brother first.” And, indeed, the good news is that his baby brother, Blake, was saved. The sad news is that Jordan and their mother’s lives were lost in the flood. But, there is more to the story. You should know that Jordan never learned to swim. He happened to have a terrible phobia; he was terrified of water. And yet, in order to save his brother, he faced his greatest fear. Many of you might be thinking, wow, I wish I had a brother like that. How much holier it would be if you took the time to think, “Wow, I wish I were a brother or sister like that” and then go and be one.

Shalom My Friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is a Hospice Chaplain and Member of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains. He also provides Professional Pastoral Care Services to a number of health centers in Broward County.

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