Can I Help You Carry Something?

In college, I used to lug my keyboard all around campus to play for different gigs. It was an 88-key Yamaha S80, and it was fifty pounds.

I seriously considered giving up keys and playing something lighter, like a flute. Or a harmonica. Or a kazoo.

Anytime I had to go anywhere with my keyboard, it was an ordeal. I didn't have wheels on my case, so I would squat down, get a good grip on it, lift that sack of bricks with a grunt, and walk like I was carrying a small person with me.

Depending on how far I had to go, sometimes I'd have to stop and set the keyboard down for a minute because the ligaments in my shoulders were ready to snap like old rubberbands. And no matter the distance, there was always sweat. I hate sweat.

One of the greatest godsends I've ever had came in the form of my friend Alex. He was much bigger than me, and slightly insane (in the best way). Our nickname for him was Bumble, after the abominable snowman in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Every time he was with me, he offered to carry my keyboard for me. He'd lift it up over his shoulder and walk with a pep in his step, like he was happy about it or something. Like I said—insane.

Over the years, I can't tell you how many times I've been on the giving and receiving end of the same type of situation: a friend has something to carry—an instrument (or instruments), groceries, boxes, furniture, babies, whatever—and like a natural instinct, I ask, "Can I help you carry something?" Or, like my friend Alex, someone asks me if they can help me carry something.

When I've asked that question, sometimes, the person says, "Yes—PLEASE," and I run over and grab as much as I can to help.

Sometimes, the person says, "Sure," and hands me something small while she carries the rest. I say, "Okay," and I carry what she gave me.

Sometimes, the person says, "No thanks, I'm good." This person may have it handled, and I'll say, "Okay," and let him carry it. Other times, he has sweat pouring down his face and a huge vein popping out of his head and it looks like death might be imminent. Despite the decline of my offer to help, I'll go over anyway and start taking things out of his arms, or rush to the other side of the clunky arm chair he's trying to carry on his own.

Then there are the times when someone I know is carrying more than stuff—they're carrying a burden. They're carrying sorrow. They're carrying heartbreak. They're carrying anxiety or depression or frustration or disease or disappointment.

I wish I could fix it.

I wish I could heal it.

I wish I could erase it.

I can't.

Maybe all I can do is offer to carry something. Maybe al lI can do is show up and ask, Can I help you carry this? Any of it—a big piece or a small piece. Make a meal. Watch your kids. Run an errand. Listen to you vent. Sit with you for a while. Whatever you want.

I can't fix this, but can I make it easier?

I can't heal this, but can I take some of the stress away?

I can't erase this, but can I walk with you through it?

Can I help you carry something?