Those of us who are old enough to be familiar with the quote “He Ain’t Heavy. He’s my Brother”, popularized in the late 1960s, may still be moved by it. At the time, I was familiar with the use of the phrase which was adopted in the 1940s to represent the spirit of Boy’s Town. Yet, I was surprised to learn, thanks to Wikipedia, of much earlier roots that date back to a young Scottish girl carrying her brother, who when asked of her burden replied, “He’s na heavy. He’s mi brither”.
There is a lot of meaning packed into that reply. It came from a young girl, a child herself, who carried the burden of her brother – selflessly. The present adaptation of the phrase was used in a song that resonated globally in 1969. This was a time of significant events; Richard Nixon was sworn in as the 37th President, the Beatles ended their public performances as a group, Apollo 11 landed men on the moon, the Boeing 747 made its debut, Woodstock occurred in New York, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire again, prompting events leading to the formation of the EPA, the seeds of the Internet were planted through the development of ARPANET, and the Vietnam War, with related protests, raged on while peace negotiations were finally being considered. This was a difficult, and at the same time promising, period in American history, just as it is today. It took many selfless acts, yet we were able to meet our responsibilities then as I’m sure we will now.
Looking back at that time, I believe there was a reason the example of that selfless act and the song that popularized it, took hold; we needed to be reminded that we have a responsibility, one to another. What better example than from a child’s selfless act?
The lyrics of the song written by Bob Russell and Bobby Scott reminds us that, “The road is long, with many a winding turn…”.
We will find our way again.
by Kevin Deeny, a lifelong resident of Levittown PA