One of the most difficult parts of traveling is packing. Once upon a time, international travel meant carrying two huge suitcases per person. So for each child I could fill up with stuff. In one corner went their clothes, and the rest was filled chock full with books, shoes, bags, and miscellaneous fun stuff.I remember one year there was a sale at Cub (local grocery store) on Crystal Light, and we bought about $75 worth of it, dumped it in the case, and drank low calorie drinks for the next 6 months.
Another year brought with it educational supplies. Feathers, pipe cleaners, dried tempura paint, and even scissors went into the case without any worries.
And every year bags and bags of candy; candy for us, candy for gifts, candy for guests.
Then a few years ago it all began to change. Suddenly airlines began to charge for any domestic bag, and get serious about limited weight. I suddenly found myself struggling to fit everything in. I began to leave stuff behind. In the closets at my mother’s and sister’s homes you found perfume, books, candy, prayer carpets, shoes, computer bags, and all sorts of other things that just would not fit.
I remember once I attended a one-woman play (in Philadelphia) about a woman trying to walk the path of her sheikh, while dragging a huge suitcase. She continues to insist, “No! I can’t get rid of that! Oh no! I need this!” until the weight of the suitcase stops her ability to walk with him. He is moving on – with others that were willing to drop their baggage. She must choose.
The play has her taking each thing out of the bag, one by one, her dunya, her love of leadership, her arrogance, her bitterness, her ‘schedule’, and her habits. With great difficulty she decides to discard each. In the play, the minute she opens the case, willing to let go, the sheikh pauses and stands in support. She still has to do it on her own, but once in a while in a moment of hesitation he reaches in and grabs it out of her hands tossing it behind his back saying, “There are better things for you.”
“There are better things for you.” I know it, yet I still cling to what is comfortable, what I know. My suitcase – the one I drag through life – is lighter than it once was to be sure, but I still carry it.
The Prophet (S) – Allahumma salli ‘alai – did not carry baggage. He did not carry bitterness about tragedy; he had experienced the death of his parents, his caregiver (grandfather), and children. He did not carry forward his very personality. A quiet man before the revelation – one who took to being mostly with his family or in seclusion; after the revelation he became a man who spoke; a man who interacted with all levels of society; a man who sought out new communities to receive the message that he carried.
I wonder about my bag. Perhaps we need a spiritual airport, one that will weigh our bags, and charge us for extra weight, will search our bags and pull out that which is not allowed, and will make us put our embarrassing stuff in clear plastic bags for all the world to see.
I close my first suitcase – the one I’m taking on Delta – and look around. Over the years I’ve learned to limit what I buy, and I’m almost done here. I hope and pray that by the time I’m ready to ‘travel’ that I will have a different kind of baggage – the kind filled with good deeds – I hope and pray that I will have rid myself of this other bag; the one I’m afraid to have weighed.