Sometimes You Can’t Take it With You


Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong /

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong /

My journey had come to an end. I gathered my things from the overhead compartment and from around my seat, which had become quite a mess. I stood in the line that filed slowly from the plane, shuffling forward just inches at a time. We moved acrossed across the skyway at an exhaustingly sluggish pace, me thinking of the places I had been. Memories, good and bad, flooded my weary mind. I dismissed them as best I could and kept shuffling.The wait provided me with ample opportunity to think of the places from which I had come.  There had been happy gatherings, celebrations, and moments of ecstatic joy. But there had also been sadness, humiliation, and half-truths that could not be erased. I had packed these things away and brought them with me.

I began my trudge to the baggage carousel. The conveyor was already circling, and a crowd of faces with dark circles and puffy eyes looked eagerly on. Occasionally someone would push their way hastily to the front to grab a suitcase that was already too far to the right, bumping into another passenger without apology as he grabbed his luggage. Eventually, one by one, these people picked up their belongings and moved on, going toward or away from their own journeys.

As I stood there, first behind 50 people, then 10, then two, then none, my bag circled not one or two, but three times. The belt switched off, and the bag lay there before me; it looked both dejected and beckoning, silently calling for me to just take the handle.

What do I do?

My gaze broke from the bag – just long enough to notice that there was a woman at the next carousel looking at me. We locked eyes for a moment, but only long enough for me to realize that she thought I probably intended to steal the bag. I looked down at  the floor, ashamed.

If I had been standing at the carousel with someone who knows me, they would have recognized my bag immediately. “There it is!  Grab it, and let’s go!”  But I knew the truth; if I took it, it would be stealing. That suspicious stranger was right – it didn’t belong to me. It used to be mine, but I had no rights over it, no claim. That bag was full of things I should have discarded long ago.  But it took a stranger’s lingering glare for me to recognize that while I knew I didn’t want it, its contents were no longer needed, and no longer mine.

But I didn’t just walk away. I turned around to have a last look at that bag. It held some things that I would miss. But the thought of the bad things waiting behind the zipper was too much.  I knew that even if I took it with me, I could never bear to open it again. Even the part of me that wanted it knew how wrong it was. So I left those things there, in that nondescript bag, for someone to steal or send to unclaimed baggage.  If it turned out to contain hidden treasure, that would be for someone else to discover. I was ready for a new journey.