When I was unceremoniously let go from my job a year ago, one thing was missing from the boxes collected from my desk and mailed to me. My rolling red bag. I called to inquire. They gave my bag to a homeless shelter because they assumed that I took the bag from a client event that we had done years before. Those were suitcases. Mine was a rolling carry-on briefcase. Big difference. I was pissed.
Four years ago, I bought a set of Delsey luggage at Younkers to use on overnight trips for my new job. I choose red so that it would be easier to spot on the luggage carousel. So it was annoying that I now had an incomplete set of luggage.
Fast forward to last October.
I saw a homeless woman walking down the street with a huge backpack, a Target bag and a small black toiletry bag. She was limping and struggling to drag all her stuff toward the downtown homeless shelter. She knew she had to get there in less than an hour to get a bed. I picked her up and gave her a ride. On the way we stopped at QuikTrip, where I saw my friend Josh on his way to taking his little ballerina to dance lessons. I asked her if she wanted anything. "Anything?" Sharon inquired. "Well," I said, the stupid white girl in me bubbling up to the surface. I listened in horror as I heard my mouth say, "Anything but alcohol or cigarettes." "Oh no," she said, ignoring my insult. "I was thinking of getting a USA Today."
I vowed to find Sharon a new bag. A few weeks later, my friend Denika donated a ton of sheets, blankets, and a nice green rolling bag that I intended to give to Sharon. I had it in the back of my car for months, and never saw her again. All last winter, I wondered how she was managing through our brutal winter. I put the bag in my basement.
Today, I was on the way to my husband's house (another long story, we're in the process of moving to the same house) and crossing the street near Dahl's on Ingersoll was my friend Sharon. I recognized the limp and her coat. She was sporting a new bag. It was my red Delsey carry-on! I recognized it immediately.
I stopped to offer her a ride, and had the opportunity to lift my old bag into the back seat of my car. We drove to Quik Trip again. I remembered her penchant for USA Today,I snagged one and an ice cream bar, which was the only thing that sounded good to Sharon.
Pouring rain was coming down. I asked if she minded if we stopped at my house to get something. She agreed, so I circled back to my place to get the rolling green duffel. She looked it up and down and thanked me. "Ever since I found this red bag, it's been easier to cart my stuff around because it is small and easy to roll. I don't think I need a new one. It would just encourage me to haul more stuff around." Then she accepted an offer of warm socks and a pair of sweats, but kindly refused my twice-worn Tommy Hilfiger cable knit sweater.
When I dropped her off at her destination, I unloaded the bag (it still had my business card stuffed into the front ID badge pocket, backwards, so you could only see the blank side), and bid her goodbye again. That bag is now a metaphor for me.
Thankfulness for what I have. A fruitful life. A booming business. Healthy children. An adoring husband. A roof over my head on a rainy day. Who knew all that could fit inside a rolling red bag?