I don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing I hate to do, it’s impose on people. I will sometimes go to ridiculous extremes just to avoid inconveniencing anyone else, even when I know the “inconvenience factor” would be minor. That’s just the way I am. So imagine how much worse I would feel if I had to depend on others to provide me with the very basics in life.
A couple of years ago we had a severe windstorm come through. It was a chilly spring day, and the weather forecast was calling for Category One Hurricane-force winds (70+ mph). We spent much of the preceding day battening down the hatches and getting ready for it. We knew we would lose power, so we filled every jug in the house with water, made sure we had firewood (for the woodstove) stacked right outside the door, had all the oil lamps filled and trimmed, and prepared the barn for the livestock. I caught up on the laundry and made sure everyone took showers. We made plans not to leave home. In other words, we prepared in every way possible to insure that an interruption of services would be trivial.
The wind was hideous, as predicted. Tree limbs came down all over, many roads were blocked, and of course the power went out. But the lamp-lit house with cozy with warmth, and a nice stew bubbled on the propane stove.
However some neighbors arrived home to a cold dark house. They had no way to heat it, no way to light it, no way to cook an evening meal. We invited them over and we had a lovely gathering until the power came back on.
To their credit, these neighbors understood how even a short power outage left them vulnerable, and they’ve taken huge steps to make sure they won’t be an imposition on anyone during future power outages. They now have a good supply of stored water, oil lamps, and firewood. They have a wood cookstove and lots of stored food. In short, they are far better equipped than they were before.
Unfortunately not everyone has the foresight and understanding of our neighbors. Most people don’t plan to be a burden on others (at least, I hope not). But in fact, that’s exactly what happens when something happens you’re not equipped to handle.
Let me make an important distinction right now: not everyone is able-bodied or of sound mind. Reasonable accommodations must be made for those who have physical or mental challenges. Okay, now that that disclaimer is in place, the rest of you need to get off your butts and work.
Believe me, if the bleep hits the fan, it will be all hands on deck. We’re all going to have to work our fannies off to provide ourselves with food, shelter, protection, and other critical needs. Not one of us will be sitting around staring at the boob tube (which, presumably, won’t exist anyway if things get too bad).
My point is, the last thing you want to be in this scary new world is a burden.
Being a burden can take many different forms, and most of these are your fault. Let me explain what I mean.
If someone is blind, clearly we do not expect him to drive a car. A blind person is not a “burden” because his condition is not his fault. We must take reasonable measures to accommodate his limitations. But within those limitations, a blind person is just as capable of working – and working hard – as the next person.
But too many people claim they can’t or won’t work because of some lame excuse. Not to sound too harsh here, but post-bleep, there will be a whole lot more work to be done. Don’t try to come up with excuses to get out of it.
Many years ago when he was young and stupid, a friend did something wrong and was assigned some community service tasks. He had to do some cleanup on a park along with some other men who were similarly assigned community service work. My friend later reported how hard these men worked at getting out of work. They would delay. They would hem and haw. They would make excuses. They would procrastinate. They did everything, in short, except pick up the stupid rake and gather the leaves.
Meanwhile my friend quietly and diligently raked leaves. It was easy work. He raked and raked and raked. He raked half the park all by himself simply by not making excuses not to rake the leaves. At the end of the day, the supervisor gladly signed off his community service hours and wished him well.
My friend later reported how much easier it is to simply apply his energy to the task required rather than come up with endless lame excuses to get out of the work.
It’s worth mentioning that my friend’s attitude has continued through his adult life. He has a work ethic that beats other people hand’s down. He has succeeded in a difficult field because he works when others make excuses.
A work ethic is the first step toward not being a burden.
What is a burden? A burdensome person does more than just avoids work. A burdensome person talks too much, or complains too much, or is one of those know-it-all annoyances who must tell everyone what they’re doing wrong and how much better they could do it. And through it all, he lets someone else carry the load while he takes it easy.
Not everything can be anticipated and prepared for. But such things as power outages are common occurrences. The least – the very least – everyone should do is be ready to handle them without being cold, hungry, in the dark, and unable to use the toilet.
Because if you aren’t prepared, you’re a burden. Plain and simple. How much of a burden depends on your attitude.
But those of use who consider themselves prepared can’t be too smug about it, because any of us can become burdens at the drop of a hat. If you lose your home and supplies to a wildfire, you’re just as vulnerable as if you had never prepared. That’s why we must remember to extend the hand of charity and mercy to others.
But if you deliberately flaunt your unpreparedness, and laughingly taunt those who take precautions against the unknown… then don’t act surprised if your prepared neighbors are less likely to feel charitable toward you. They’d rather help the grateful old lady down the street, or the friends who extended a helping hand in the past.
Now extrapolate this attitude toward society at large, and we have a problem. I once heard it said that most Americans would starve to death in a field of wheat while standing next to a cow. What this means is most of us are so disconnected from our food sources that we are helpless to harvest nutrition in its most elemental state. We are so dependent on others to provide us with our needs that we are helpless if those supplies lines are interrupted.
That’s what I fight against: ignorance and helplessness, both personally and societally. Don’t be a burden. Pull your own weight.