Ellie just can’t help it. She has to police her little brother. “Dad! Ethan didn’t pack any clothes in his backpack!”
“Okay, Ellie,” I replied, just to get her to turn the volume down a bit. “Tell Ethan to come here, and we’ll find out.”
My mother had stopped by to drop off a birthday dress for Meghan who turned two on Sunday. As usual, several of the kids wanted to go home with her. Grandma has cable TV with Nickelodeon and The Cartoon Channel, and she has a whole closet filled with Twinkies and candy bars and soda pop. Depending on your age, it’s either a dream or a nightmare.
Beckoned and threatened by his older sister, Ethan came stumbling into the room with a backpack as tall as he is strapped to his back side.
“Did you pack some clothes so you can take a bath at Grandma’s, buddy?”
“Well, what’s in your backpack, then?”
“I got my Spiderman suit, and my sunglasses, and a baseball.”
“Wow! Well, that’s pretty good packin’, but you’d better get some clothes, too. Get some clean underwear and socks.”
“Okay, I will,” he chirped, as he danced off to his room with Ellie on his tail.
Ellie couldn’t resist: “See, Ethan, I told you! You have to pack some clothes, too!”
I’ve spent way too much time packing and traveling. Ethan’s a novice, but his methods taught me an important lesson: I don’t think I’ve ever packed adequately. I don’t think it’s really possible.
Most of my packing efforts are spent worrying about where I’m going, who I’m meeting, what impression I’ll need to make, and what might go wrong. I always pack way too much and still never seem to have what I need.
A few years ago, I was climbing Longs Peak, one of more than fifty peaks in Colorado that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation. I packed twice as much as I needed and still didn’t have everything. At about 12,000 feet, when it was hard to breathe and the rocks and cliffs were chipping away at my machismo, I decided to ditch the pack.
I left it lying there beside the trail, knowing it might be gone when I returned – if I returned – but with it, I would never make it to the top.
Tonight, I’m fairly certain that I haven’t packed adequately. The things I’m carrying can’t meet the demands of what life is bringing. Still, I cling to them, like a rabbit’s foot in my pocket, hoping they’ve got some magical power.
With what I’m packing, I’ll never make it to the top, though. If I can sneak out before Ellie sees me, I think I’ll try to travel lighter.
Near the end of his life, my father used to sing this old, sentimental chorus so much that I was embarrassed for him:
I have everything I need to make me happy
I have Jesus to show me the way
He has saved me, and he gave me life eternal
And now, I have everything
Now, I think I should have listened more carefully. I’m beginning to understand that less is more. Small is great. Open and empty are better than closed and full. A Spiderman suit in the pack is better than clean underwear any day.