A few days ago, my friend Shawn asked the question, “Who are you burdened for?”, and I have been pondering that idea ever since, particularly in terms of the project I’m working on at present.

I’ve been having one of those writing stints where every idea I have seems like nonsense, where the words I write seem unoriginal and plain, where I just feel like this writing thing is too hard and useless. I want to quit.

But Shawn’s question gave me a foundation – who am I burdened for in this book? Why am I writing it? Shawn was right; “find your burden, find your purpose.”

I am burdened for the voiceless and the underprivileged. I am burdened for those who, through no fault of their own, have no way to speak to their struggles, no one to hear their burdens. I am burdened for those who do not have the tools, the skills, the forum, or the power to let themselves be heard. I am burdened for those who have been silenced historically. They are my burden.

So I am writing about people who were slaves. I am writing about my dad’s family – poor, white, tobacco sharecroppers. I am writing about people who have never been given much of a voice. I am trying to carry their burden and understand mine, too.

I guess I just see our purposes being woven up with other people’s purposes – tied up in “bearing one another’s burdens.” For we are intertwined. We cause pain; we are given pain; we feel the pain of those around us.

Or at least we do if we try. So I am trying. I am carving out voices for these people. I am doing an inadequate job I am sure; certainly it would be better if they could have spoken for themselves. But since they couldn’t, I am will try to speak their burdens for them, haltingly, imperfectly, bu as loudly as I can.

“Devolved Status” by Chris Mars