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The backpack of burdens for families

Some of the work I do involves families that each carry stress. They suffer in silence unable or unwilling to share their pains with others in the family. This sometimes leads to a lack of communication and misunderstanding of motives.

I have found that what I call the "backpack" solution works well. Each family carries a backpack containing stones with the names of their worries on them. They place them in the backpack and carry it for a week everywhere they go. This is quite a challenge but they must not lighten the load nor share the contents.

At the end of the week each family member unloads their burdens..their stones and explains to others what they are facing. What I have seen happen is that other members of the family will pick up the stone and say they will carry your burden. There was a family I was working with and the son who was about 10, picked up a stone with a concern his father had about his son and said "I will carry this and lighten your load" After the sharing, the backpacks with the stones are carried to a stream or a lake and the members thrown their stones into the lake,

Although this is a very simple technique that appeals to children it is also very healing. We carry our burdens our worries alone and we become aware of how heavy they are. Once we share them and expose them they become lighter and finally when we throw the stones away releasing the burden to God..we understand that we need not have been so troubled or weighed down, moreover we are inspired by the love that our family has for one another.

I chose the image above as I used to do a lot of wilderness canoeing and as I had to carry my pack and canoe some kilometers into the bush and in fairly rough country, I was keenly aware of the weight and comfort (or lack of) of my pack. I quickly eliminated things like my extra notebook, my second flashlight, dry shoes and other things to save the extra weight. The same is true in many ways for our worries and concerns in life. Many of them are simply weighing us down but we insist on taking them with us everywhere we go. We portage them in our thoughts, in our actions and in our words. They are constant unwanted companions. By carrying them as stones on our back we have a physical reminder that these are troublesome and after a week of experiencing the inconvenience we release the burdens to others and finally to God as we throw them away.

Will the worries come back? Of course they will. Everytime I went canoeing I was tempted to pack 'extra' just in case but with experience I became wiser. Likewise when lighten our emotional load and continue to be aware it, we will be able to unburden ourselves with much more ease and experience a fuller and more joyful life.

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