2018-11-02 / Chaplain's News

Keeping our knapsack balanced, not too full

Chaplain (Maj.) David Kirk
Cyber Center of Excellence

There is an item that many people carry today for a variety of reasons. Servicemembers call it a rucksack and carry it when they are on a ruck march or moving from one location to another on the battlefield.

Students and others call it a backpack and use it to carry books, tablets and other items for school, work or when engaging in certain sporting or other activities where having one is practical.

This item is slung over one’s shoulders and arms and worn on the back. This is the physical backpack that we are all familiar with. There is also one we all have that involves the spiritual and emotional elements of our lives.

Thomas J. Harrington, in his book titled “A Call to Save; The Memoir of a Fire Chaplain,” relates where a wise sage has a metaphor on the spiritual and emotional backpack carried by a particular group of people.

The sage is Lt. Jeff Camara from Fire Station 11 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Camara works with first responders who have been through some type of traumatic event and is conducting a debriefing after the event.

His metaphor on backpacks goes like this: “Every firefighter begins his or her career with a knapsack and each incident is like a stone added to that knapsack; sometimes a big rock, other times a pebble. Whatever its size, each experience takes its toll, and the more traumatic, the greater the weight. If we don’t stop from time to time to empty some of the things in the knapsack, there will come a day when one last incident occurs. It might be just a little stone, but when it goes into the knapsack – bingo – we’ll suddenly find ourselves smack on our gluteus maximi!”

Our lives are made up of many moments that constitute the story of who we are. These moments are memories that we either cherish or bury deep within our mind.

We like to keep the pleasant ones. These keep us emotionally and spiritually balanced. We have great positive synergy and life flows like a gentle stream.

Most of the time we are able to easily let go of the ones that are unpleasant or troublesome.

We are able to, as Lt. Camara says, “stop from time to time and empty some of the things in the knapsack.” There are other times when those moments and memories which are not pleasant weigh us down.

How often have we experienced these in our lives and had these rocks or pebbles added to our knapsack? Have you ever felt that your knapsack is overflowing and weighing you down? There are ways to lessen your burden. You can talk with a friend or seek out a counselor or chaplain to assist in helping you remove those weighty rocks and pebbles.

Chaplains, like others, work with those of all beliefs and those with none at all. Here is what I have found over the years working as an Army chaplain. All have something that they turn to for comfort and guidance when confronted with weighty issues.

Many who are Christian find solace when turning to prayer and scripture as aids when the knapsack gets too full. Here are two favorite scripture passages they relate that they like to use.

Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-30, says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Isaiah the prophet says in Isaiah 41:13 “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’”

There are many out there willing and able to listen and help you remove those rocks and pebbles when they weigh down your knapsack no matter what your beliefs or convictions might be. Give it a try. You will be pleasantly surprised.

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