ELLIE VENNER walked home from school, pondering a text, which she had heard her teacher read that morning,   "Bear ye one another's burdens," and she could not understand exactly what it meant. Of course she resolved to ask her mother; but when she reached home she was told that mamma was out.

Then she went to a large dictionary, and found that "burden" meant something to carry.

Finally she thought she would take a walk. Soon she met a poor woman wearing a soiled, ragged dress, and carrying what appeared to be a very heavy basket on her head. Ellie looked down at her own warm dress and thick cloak, and hugged her little muff more tightly to her, as she thought how cold that poor woman must be. 

Then she looked again at the heavy basket on her head, and thought that must be her burden, and she wondered if she ought to carry it for her. Yet she didn't believe she would be able to lift it.

Then she went on for some distance, and she came to a narrow, dirty street. It did not look at all inviting, and at first she thought she would hurry by; but, seeing a good many little boys and girls playing there, she finally strolled in. She saw one little girl about her own age, carrying a baby.

"That must be her burden," Ellie said to herself, "I'll carry it for her."

So she walked up to the stranger, and said, "Little girl, I'll carry the baby, shall I?"

The child seemed shy at first; but, when she saw what a pleasant little face Ellie had, she gained courage, and said, "Yes; if you'll hold him a few minutes, I can go and play snowball."  But the baby was large and fat, and he kicked and screamed when Ellie tried to take him, so that she could not get a good hold; and he fell, and bumped his forehead. Then he screamed louder than ever; and his sister picked him up, and carried him into the house.  Ellie felt very sorry that she had hurt the baby when she was trying to do right.

She went home now, and found that mamma had returned, and of course she went to her with her troubles.

"Poor child!" said the mother, putting her arm around her little daughter, and drawing her closer to her, "The text is not to be taken literally."

"What does 'literally' mean?" asked Ellie.

"You were taking it literally," replied mamma, "this afternoon, when you tried to carry the baby. There are many burdens which cannot be seen, and they are generally the heaviest."

"Where do they carry them, mamma?" asked Ellie.

"They often carry them in their hearts, my child. This little girl you were telling me about must be very poor; for you say that she was thinly clad, and had no shoes. Then poverty, with all its discomforts, is her burden. Some people have sickness: that is their burden. Some are lame; some are blind." 

 Ellie was beginning to understand the text better now.

"But, mamma," she asked, looking a little doubtful, "how can I bear this little girl's burden? Must I be poor, and go to live in her house, and wear her rags, and let her come here to live with you and papa?"

"Oh, no!" said mamma, smiling, and kissing the little upturned face. 

"We could not spare our little girl. God has given you to us, and we are not going to give you away. But is there nothing you can do to lighten this little girl's burden? You say she has very scant clothes."

"I have some money of my own," said Ellie. "I can buy her a pair of shoes. O mamma! will you go with me now, and help me buy them?"

"Yes," said the mother, ready to encourage the generous impulse of her child.

They went first to the house where Ellie said the little girl lived. They found her with the baby in her arms. Another little girl was playing on the floor; their mother was ironing; and their father was in bed, quite ill.  Mrs. Venner made some kind inquiries in regard to their want; then she and Ellie went out to do their shopping. When they returned, the poor woman's face brightened at the sight of the little comforts which were brought to her sick husband, and the promise of flour, which had been ordered and would soon come.

The little girl put the baby on the floor while she tried on her new shoes, which seemed to make her very happy; and she told Ellie they were what she had wanted more than anything else.  Ellie felt very happy, and, as she and her mother were walking home, she said, "Mamma, I think it is very pleasant to bear other people's burdens. I wish I could do it a great deal more."

"You can do it very frequently," replied mamma," if you are careful to watch for opportunities. There are many little favors you can do for people. Merely speaking a few kind words often gives pleasure. We should be more ready to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of making others happy, when we think how much Christ sacrificed for us. He bore our burdens and shed his blood for us, that we might be saved."  Ellie was very thoughtful during the remainder of the walk home; and her mother noticed with pleasure, after this, that her little girl was trying earnestly in many ways to bear the burdens of others.


 in Well-Spring