My adaptation of a tale from Germany. So often our worries overwhelm us and we look with envy at those whose lives seem easier than our own.
Once there was a woman who was overcome with troubles. No matter where she turned it seemed there was another problem waiting for her. She dreaded the sun's rising, knowing that yet another day of anxiety and stress was ahead of her.
One day she sat in her yard, moaning about her fate. "Ah me!" she cried. "Why is my burden in life so heavy, while those of my neighbors are so light? What have I done to deserve such a difficult load?"
A wise man was passing and happened to hear the woman. "What ails you, sister?" he asked. "You sound as if you had the cares of the world upon your shoulders.
"If you knew how much trouble I bear every day, you would cry with me," the woman said.
"Well, would you like to put down your heavy bundle of woe, and take up that of someone else?"
I would indeed!" The woman sprang from her bench. "How is this possible? I have neighbors who carry much lighter loads than I do, and I would happily trade mine for theirs."
The wise man instructed the woman to follow a certain path to a cave after dark. There she could light a candle and look about. "There will be many bundles in the cave, so choose carefully," he warned.
The woman was so excited she could hardly wait for it to be fully dark. She almost skipped down the path to the cave. When she arrived, she found the candles and quickly lit one. Then she made her way into the cave.
On the floor were many bundles, piled in heaps against the walls. The woman looked around and saw the smallest bundle. "That's the one for me!" she thought. She ran to the bundle and looked inside.
The bundle belonged to her next-door neighbor. Inside she saw a child in a casket, and a mother weeping. She saw an old woman who could not see, and a man bent from hard labor.
"That is the child my neighbor lost so many years ago, her only child. Still she grieves. And that is her old mother who lives far away. She cannot go to her mother, who must beg on the streets. It is breaking her heart. And her husband, poor man, works so hard every day and for very little money. My troubles are bad, but I would not want to carry my neighbor's burden."
She moved to another bundle, another small one. Inside she saw a man beating his wife and children. "I did not know that this man was so cruel! How horrible for his poor family. I would not want to have their problems. What a sad and difficult life they must live."
The woman moved from bundle to bundle, and inside each she found troubles far worse than her own: sickness, death, unhappy marriages, poverty, lost children and so many terrible things that she found it more and more difficult to look into the bundles. At last she saw a bundle in a corner that she had not looked into. She opened it and was surprised to find that this was own bundle. It felt surprisingly light and the worries inside seemed small indeed. As she made her way out of the cave, she saw the wise man waiting for her.
"I did not realize that my neighbors carried such heavy loads," she said. "My troubles are small in comparison. What is this place, anyway?"
This is where people's troubles go when they are sleeping," the wise man said. "For at least a little while, they can put their worries down and rest. The bundles are always here when they wake and start another day."
Tonight, let's lay our burdens down and sleep well. I hope that when you wake you will find your bundle lighter and your way brighter.