The Really Good Kind of Baggage


If you’ve ever seen me out of the house, I was probably carrying a giant bag of some sort. My dad affectionately calls whatever bag I happen to be carrying “the magic bag.” I have this really compulsive and altogether unnecessary need to carry around anything that anyone might need at any time. There’s just something so “me” about being able to pull out some obscure item that someone needed but never expected anyone would have.

My sophomore year of high school, my English teacher was also the yearbook adviser, and we all had to go outside with him to take a picture of the seniors. We got outside, and he asked if any of us happened to have sunscreen. Unlikely, right? I had two different kinds. Freshman year, someone had a splinter, and I got it out with tweezers and a plastic toothpick.  I can’t tell you how many football player’s phones have been charged with my portable power bank on the way home from an away game. During midterms, I was in the public library studying, and a junior came up to our group, asking if we had three different colors of highlighter. I had way more than three. Someone broke my Tide to Go stick, and I still have the replacement he bought me. People laugh at how much stuff I carry around all the time, but I really do love it. I love being able to help people, and I love all the memories I have because of my oversized taupe tote.

I carried the same gray backpack all throughout high school. It was the biggest backpack I’d ever seen, and I needed the extra room for all my books. But, my favorite part about that book bag is the friendship bracelet that’s tied to the handle. It looks a little raggedy, and parts of it are held together with tape. I still keep it, though, because my roommate from a summer camp made it for me. It’s been three years, and I haven’t seen a single person I met at that camp. But, I still look at that bracelet and smile.

Another important bag in my life is the medical bag I carried when I helped the athletic trainer at school. There’s an athletic tape bow tied to the handle. It’s gross, but I can’t bring myself to take it off. One of the football players put it there. The sweet athletic trainer actually let me keep my bag. It’s fully stocked and everything, sitting on my porch waiting for someone to get hurt. I can feel it pounding against my back as I ran onto the field to make sure a player was okay. I remember throwing it on the ground so Asia or Chas or Tarrah or Brinae could pull supplies out for me so we could get one of the boys back on the field quicker. I look at that bag and three years of memories warm my heart.

I also have lots of little bags that go in my bigger bags. My favorite one is aqua. Sometimes it holds snacks, and sometimes it holds cough drops. It floats between the medical bag and the tote. A bunch of football players signed it once. (Yes, I carry around a make-up bag that a group of sweaty teenage boys signed. Yes, I care more about that bag than anything any famous person could ever sign.) It’s really cool carrying around a part of people you care about.

One of my magic bags got stolen out of my mom’s car a few years ago. I have this really nice thought that whoever ended up with my Kavu needed some magic that day, and they found it in my bag. I like to believe that the magic, the love never stops.

Our baggage makes us who we are. All the stuff we carry around- the good stuff, the bad stuff, the embarrassing stuff, the stuff we don’t even have words for- is completely us. The memories we can’t let go of, the people we hold onto. Maybe carrying around too much makes us heavier. But, maybe it teaches us to let other people help and to help other people.

I could get tired of carrying around bags that are a little on the heavy side. I could stop, and I could simply respond, “No, sorry,” when someone asks if I have something. I could stop carrying my physical baggage the way we’re supposed to stop carrying our figurative baggage, but I don’t really subscribe to the theory that letting go of everything is best. You can tell me all day long that I should just leave my bundle of “doubt and questions.” I’m still going to carry it. People don’t need “doubt and questions” the way they need a pair of clippers or Advil, but they might need to know that it’s something I’m carrying, too. They might need to unpack some of their own baggage, and they might feel a lot better knowing that they aren’t experiencing something alone. Sure, it takes a little more effort and a lot more emotion to carry around a bunch of “stuff” waiting for someone to need it. But, being able to help someone is absolutely worth it. Every. Single. Time.

Baggage keeps us empathetic. It brings back memories, and it helps us grow. Baggage makes us strong enough to carry one another without thinking anyone is too heavy.

I really do think that my bags are magic. The magic isn’t in the stuff, though. The magic is in the love that surrounds every interaction I’ve had because of those bags, the love people have for me, and the love I have for them. The magic is in the beauty of our humanity, the depth of grace we learn from each other. May the magic never cease to touch your life.

All the love in the world,

Shannon

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