When the Camel’s Back Breaks. An Allegory

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2012 Nancy Virden

oqpcf3sTwo camels, Tom and Bill, walked side by side heading for what they assumed would be a feast. Their masters were always partying. A wedding here, a funeral there, it didn’t matter to these beasts of burden. They always had to carry whatever was needed, and at the end of the trip they too feasted- on straw.

Their backs, already laden with heavy gifts and wine, had to bear food as well. Huge sacks dangled on each side, flung between their double-humps and joined by a tie.  Straw lay in the bottoms to protect clay jugs and hold them upright. It encircled the cargo, having been stuffed into crevices, and bulged the sacks at odd angles.

“Hey,” Tom said to Bill as they lumbered along. “You know ‘ol Henry?”

“Sure. I know him. Shame what happened.”

“I blame his parents. They didn’t raise him right.”

Bill shook his head. “Nah, he hasn’t been coming to church. I mean, when he showed up  I could always tell there was something wrong with him.”

It was quiet for a few more minutes. Each tried to solve the puzzle of why ‘ol Henry had a broken back.

“Ok, I get it. Clearly his wife is difficult. You never know what goes on behind closed doors!”

“Regardless, he isn’t who we thought!”

The ignorant gossips, neither of which had asked ‘ol Henry why his back broke, slowly maneuvered their way through the crowd. One party-goer, no one knows who, decided he didn’t want to carry his gift any farther. Seeing an opportunity in the passing camels, he topped one bag with a teetering clay pot.

“Sheeez!” Tom complained as his back bowed. “I can only carry so much!”

“Quit your griping, it’s not that hard!” his insensitive companion bellowed. “Breathe easier. You should exercise more.”

Groaning, Tom wobbled a little. “Hey, will you let me lean on you the rest of the way?” He looked to Bill, pleading.

“You’re a pansy. Just repeat, ‘I’m a good camel.’ If you believe in yourself, you can do anything! Now c’mon. You’re slowing us down.”

As Bill was chiding, he kept his distance from Tom. The party-goer stacked straw around the clay treasure he’d added to Tom’s bag. Tom began to lose his footing. One straw fell out of the man’s hand and he leaned down to pick it up. Laughing and joking with surrounding merry-makers, he tossed the lone straw onto Tom’s sack.

There was a popping sound, then a loud crack as if a large tree branch was torn from its trunk. Sudden cries of anguish and fear faded into a low moan as Tom lay crumpled on the ground.

“I guess he was weak,” someone muttered.

No one questioned the weight of Tom’s burden. 

“Yeah, you never know what you’re really getting into with these camels. Until they’re tested, they all seem strong.”

NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

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