In his Letter to the Galatians, the
Apostle Paul recognizes an important paradox. 
On the one hand, he says: “Bear one another’s burdens.” On the other
hand: “All must carry their own loads.” 

There are some problems and challenges
in life that we’ll never be able to manage or to endure unless other people
help us; but, there really other things we have to do for ourselves.  Essayist Garret Keizer once said  that Paul’s dual admonition to bear
one another’s burdens and to bear one’s own burden” points toward both “self-reliance
and social responsibility,” what Keizer called “the Republican heart and the
Democratic heart in their purest forms.” Getting the balance between them right
is, as he said, “the crux of any sustainable community. Neither value makes
sense without the other, nor can it be fulfilled without the other. The trick
is to get them to kiss. The trick is to create a society in which the privilege
of disposable income is not contingent on the existence of disposable people.”  This, he said, is “the primary task of any
mature politics.” It depends, to a great extent, on leaders who will actually
listen to “the people they supposedly represent.” [in Harper’s
, Notebook (April 2009)]

Discerning which burdens
people can carry for themselves and which they need our help in carrying
depends on our knowing them well enough to see them compassionately and
realistically.  Leaders should know about
the real-world challenges the owners and managers of companies, corporations
and family firms face: global competition, rising healthcare costs, finding
skilled employees, skittish and demanding investors, and a complex regulatory

But it’s not enough for
leaders to listen to those who are in charge. 
They also must take the time and care time to understand the struggles
of the poor, the dreams of the dispossessed, and the hopes of the marginalized.  If our leaders don’t listen to those on the
bottom, they will make a mess of things, because they will have failed to do
what love demands we all do: get involved in the messy and hard details of
other people’s lives, including the lives of the poor, before making rules,
policies and statements which affect them.