Thursday, September 12, 2013
Lost Luggage and Yom Kippur
With the grace of the Lord Above, right now, somewhere out there, in America's Southwest, one suitcase is residing with its rightful owners-- who had not seen their precious suitcase in about 3 months.
You see Henry, it all started about six months ago. A buddy of mine knew that I would be traveling to the country in which he resided. My friend, whom, for the noble purposes of protecting his identity and maintaining his privacy, we will call Alfred, made a request of me. He knew that I would be visiting the country in which he and his family were residing. He also knew that within a few months he would be moving back to this beautiful country of ours, the magnificent United States of America. Therefore, he kindly asked me if I would transport his bag back to the States for him, as in 3 months he would be traveling with his beautiful, blossoming family back to the States, with many many other bags and goodies. The memories were fresh in my own mind of how we made a similar move. We shipped boxes in boats overseas, and shlepped 9 bags filled with all of our belongings in the airport. With only two of us, yours truly, and my beautiful, sweet, loving wife, we were able to move the luggage-carrier-thing you rent at the airport five feet at a time, then we would go back and stroll our screaming, delicious children. Then we would move the luggage carrier 5 more feet, and then, yet again, stroll our little angelic kinderlech. Then, a massive bag would fall off of the luggage caddy, nearly missing a child. With this vivid image still freshly etched in my mind, I happily obliged, excited to be able to remove this burden from my friend.
One evening, on my trip, my buddy came over with his bag, and I happily took it from him. We went over the contents of the bag, I checked everything, and we repacked it. I took a mental picture of the bag so I would be able to recognize it, and then the next day, I placed the bag underneath the tour bus on which I was leading a large group. The bag remained there for the duration of the trip, while all the other bags of my travel mates went on and off the bus, with each new overnight stop we made.
When the bus took us back to the airport for a return flight back to America, all of the bags were unloaded on to the sidewalk. I first spotted my own bag, and grabbed it. Then, I returned my rental phone to the rental-phone guy and disassembled my ipad so I could return the sim-card that I had been renting. After reassembling my ipad, and securing my own belongings, I started to look up and down the sidewalk for my friend's suitcase. Some of my travel mates would not be joining us on the flight home, so they were staying in this country, extending their visit. They came over to say goodbye-- but all I could think about was finding this silly suitcase. Up and down the sidewalk I paced, trying to find it-- but it was nowhere to be seen. It did not help matters that there was now another tour bus pulling up alongside ours, unloading their 50 pieces of luggage on the same sidewalk.
I kept pacing, looking everywhere for this suitcase, but to no avail. I sent my group ahead of me, because I wasn't leaving until I found it. But as my group started to go inside, and another tour bus pulled up, it seemed hopeless. Then, someone from my group ran outside to tell me that, as the group leader, I had to be the first one in the line, to talk with the security check-in folks. I realized that this bag, by some freak accident, did not make it on my bus, and must have been left at one of our previous overnight stops. At every stop, all the bags would come off the bus. Because no one was looking after this bag too much, since it was just hanging out on the bus for the whole trip, maybe it got left in some dusty parking lot, in the middle of this country.
I realized at this point, there was not much I could do, so I went inside to move my group along. As I stood in my line, feeling like an irresponsible failure, I thought of how I would break it to my friend, who till this day, has no idea this all happened. He probably will find out though, after I publish this blogg, because he likely will be among the thousands of readers worldwide of this blogg, so Alfred, if you are reading this, please forgive me for my irresponsibility. I thought I would just tell him the honest truth, how I put the bag on the bottom of the bus intending to keep it there, until we got off the bus to go to the airport. When we got off the bus, I would tell him, I realized the bag was gone, and it must have been left somewhere in the middle of this vast country. I would then ask him, how much his valuables in this bag was worth. I was hoping it would be around $1000, and then, I would ask him if I could pay off this sum in an installment plan. I still felt horrible, but I knew that this uncomfortable conversation would need to take place.
As I advanced in the check in line, a line I probably stood in for a full hour, I began sulking, very disappointed in myself. I had basically given up hope. But suddenly, I realized, that maybe, now with all the tour groups standing in front of me in this line, the bag would be chillin' by itself, clearly discernible on the lonely sidewalk outside. The problem was, I wasn't allowed to leave my line. So I decided I would call my tour guide-- a very sweet man whom for anonymity and secrecy we will call Harold, who was waiting for our group to all get checked in. Then I realized, I couldn't call Harold, because I had returned my rental phone to the rental phone guy. So I frantically looked around, and saw a travel-mate playing mad-birds on his phone-- and realized, maybe, if I asked nicely, he would let me use it! So I asked nicely, and he let me use it.
I immediately dialed his number, and with the grace of the Almighty, he picked up the phone. Nowadays, people don't always pick up the phone when folks call the phone. I told him my situation, and I asked, if there was maybe, perhaps, possibly, any way he could go outside for a minute to see if he could find this bag. I described the bag to him, and he told me he could go, but it would take about 5 minutes because he was far from the door. I stood there, praying that he would find it, knowing this was my last chance. Seven minutes later my travel-mate's phone started buzzing like a large mean, yellow, bumble bee. I picked up the phone. It was Harold. He told me that the police started circling around the bag, suspicious because it was an unattended suspicious bag, and they were preparing to blow up the bag, when my heroic, knight in shining armor Harold arrived to claim it. He brought the bag to me. The bag spent the summer with me, and again, due to the unending love of the One Above, last week, I was able to return it to its rightful owner.
I learned from this traumatic experience with Alfred's suitcase that one can NEVER give up. I could have given up--- but then Alf's bag would have been blown to shreds. One tiny idea popped in my head, and saved the day. This concept is very much a Jewish perspective-- and that is, that no matter what, a person can never, EVER give up. We must always continue to push forward, believing in ourselves, knowing that we can overcome ANY situation in which we find ourselves.
Life, oh Henry, can often by very challenging. Sometimes people find themselves in difficult situations, and people are often in despair. There is a tendency in life nowadays, to give up. People give up on themselves, G-d forbid, they give up on family, and they give up on friends. Sometimes people have very difficult challenges, and they think they cannot overcome them-- so they give up, reaching that awful feeling of despair. The Torah teaches us not to despair-- never to give up. Rebbi Nachman of Breslov, whose merits should protect us, teaches that "The whole world is a very narrow-bridge--but the main thing, is not to be afraid at all."
Every human being on the planet- all of you humans across the globe reading this blogg-- by virtue of your humanity, have a soul-- the breath of G-d Himself. You have Godliness within your soul-- a spark of the Divine. That means that you are beyond great, and there is no challenge that you cannot overcome-- as difficult as it might be. Whenever the going gets tough, never forget that you are Godly, and you can overcome anything.
Tomorrow night begins Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is a gift that G-d gives us, in His infinite kindness that enables us to actively repent for our previous wrongdoings, and to start off our lives anew. We are able to erase the past, and begin a bright new future. Lest a person ever give up, and think they are too far removed from being able to repent, and turn their lives around, Yom Kippur comes and affirms the complete and total falseness of that errant assertion.
Let us all be sealed in the Book of Life, blessed with a beautiful, sweet new year, where we understand the greatness that lies within us, and utilize our G-d given potential to impact the entire universe.