Bella Wilfer and Lizzie Hexam were two very different women.
Bella was a spoiled, self-proclaimed gold-digger who longed to be nobler than she was, Lizzie an impoverished, self-sacrificing saint who was noble by nature. Bella lived in a mansion, Lizzie in a dark corner of the docks that was “river-washed and otherwise not washed at all.”
Bella Wilfer and Lizzie Hexam are the heroines in Charles Dickens’ book, Our Mutual Friend. Though from such different worlds, the women met one day at a funeral, and a friendship was formed.
I love the scene after the funeral, when Bella had a conversation with the book’s hero, John Rokesmith. Bella said, “I shall be happy, Mr. Rokesmith, to be of the least use; for I feel, after the serious scene of today, that I am useless enough in this world.”
I find Mr. Rokesmith’s response profound.
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else.”
Bella Wilfer, though not without her faults, lightened the burdens of Lizzie Hexam.
A similar commendation could be given to a man in the Bible named Philemon, who received a letter from the Apostle Paul. In the letter, Paul wrote, “For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” Philemon 7
Refresh hearts, give comfort, bring joy. Or, in other words, lighten burdens.
Most of us, in the course of a typical day, wouldn’t need to go far to find someone with a burden. He or she is probably already in our lives, at our workplaces, waiting in line at the bank, ringing up our produce at the grocery store . . . sitting next to us in the pew at church or eating at the table in our own homes.
I challenge you to make it your day-to-day mission to lighten the burden of someone else. It could be a simple encouragement, like a smile and generous tip to the waitress who brought your dinner. Or it could be something more profound, like being a lifelong friend to your Lizzie Hexam.