During the pandemic shut-down, I joined myriads of people in re-reading out-of-date books. One of the popular drugstore books of the 1990’s was “Repacking Your Bags.” The book was conceived by a career development and life-coach named Dick Leider during a backpacking trek in Africa. His guide for the journey was a Masai chief named Koyie. If you have seen a picture of the Masai, you know that they are remarkably simple. They carry no more than a spear and a cattle prod. Koyie had been well-educated at a mission school and spoke flawless English, but he chose to live far from the city, on the edge of a great wildlife preserve.
Dick Leider had come fully prepared for this trek. He was especially proud of his high-tech backpack and its cargo-carrying efficiency. It was a maze of pockets and pouches and compartments, all fastened with snaps, zippers, and Velcro patches.
As they walked along, Dick noticed that Koyie kept staring at the backpack. Assuming his guide was incredibly impressed, Dick offered to take the pack off and show him how it worked. One by one, he exposed its treasures: special cutting devices, direction finders, star gazers, map readers, torches, medical supplies, and clothing for every possible change of weather.
Dick spread it all out and stood back proudly. He waited for Koyie’s reaction, but nothing came. Finally, after several minutes of staring at each item, Koyie turned to Dick and asked: “Do these things help you understand others? Does all this make you happy? Does your new backpack make you more loving?”
Dick didn’t see this coming. He was stopped in his tracks. He could find no words to answer. In a split second, the questions had started him thinking about everything he was carrying and why — not just on that journey but through his whole life.
As the trek continued, Dick would begin choosing which things in his pack were necessary for a good journey and which were not. He started giving things to people along the way, and “Repacking Your Bags” took shape.
When Jesus faced the religious leaders in the Temple, they in effect asked him to take the 613 precepts of law in the Torah, spread them out in his mind, and choose which was most important. Jesus answered by quoting from a commandment called the “Shema”: “To love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
What unnecessary baggage do we keep carrying through life? What resentments and grievances do we clutch? What useless stuff do we keep stuffing into our backpacks?
During this interim period, it’s a good time to “Repack our bags.”