Am I My Brother’s Keeper?


So, the other day I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with my brother who is somewhat home-bound while his wife went out to do some needed errands.

We just hung out for a while but since it was a beautiful sunshiny day we decided to go out for a walk. Now my brother is in a wheelchair so I would need to push him along our way. As a chaplain in a nursing home I have actually become quite adept at handling wheelchairs but always on a smooth and flat surface.
My bro wanted to show me a path along which some deer come out to graze on the lush grass near a wooded area. The path is paved and travels slightly downhill to the area we wanted to see. So getting there was fairly simple and the pushing easy. Well, the way back up was not so easy. It was work. The path seemed a lot steeper going up as I recalled going down. There appeared to be more cracks and holes in the asphalt on the uphill climb. I also realized at that point that my brother’s weight was about the same as mine. Not light. My brother has lost some of his ability to speak clearly and so was quiet most of the way. I was pretty quiet too except for my panting and gasping, and breathing hard. In the silence, I recalled a recent homily given by Father Leroy Maus at one of the local care centers in which he referred to the priest who founded Boy’s Town; Father Flanagan.
Some of you more seasoned readers may recall a movie way back when by the same name: Boy’s Town. It starred Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan and Mickey Rooney as an orphaned teenager who was kind of a trouble maker. Boy’s Town was established as a home/school for young lads who had no one who cared for or about them. Father Flanagan coined a phrase to portray the purpose of the academy that has been written into a song and performed by many artists over the years; the Hollies in 1969, Neil Diamond in the 70’s and many others since then. The phrase is: “He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother!” Here’s an excerpt from the song, (google the title for the full lyrics):
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where? But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he, to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another
I recently found a recording of the song online and after listening to it realized that yes, I am my brother’s keeper and you know what?  He ain’t heavy.
DEACON STEVE YANISH
Deacon Steve is a husband, father, grandfather and (semi) retired nursing home chaplain who is currently serving as deacon at St. Francis Xavier Church in Sartell.

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