This time it was me.
The crowd of travellers around had quickly dispersed, excitedly heading to their accommodation or perhaps wearily heading home.
I nervously smiled, aware my colleagues were ready to head out the terminal door, twitching with excitement to be away from their schools for the first time in more than two years. This was the first national conference of this scale our network of schools had been able to host for more than 28 months. I was holding them up!
There were two lonely suitcases still circling on the tired conveyer —one case looked particularly battle-scarred from one too many baggage handlers throws. It seemed no one wanted to claim that one. I wondered why the other case was abandoned. Perhaps some person was panicking in a taxi right now, realising they’d left a bag behind.
My eyes scanned the carousels on either side where I was waiting—searching ever hopeful. Perhaps my case had jumped trollies, headed for another exotic destination.
The assistant at the service desk nearby had said just to wait. But her tired voice wavered with frustration. Yes, sigh. Another customer’s suitcase had disappeared. The airline workforce was still not back to pre-pandemic strength.
The conveyer belt shuddered to a stop. My heart sank. My suitcase was definitely was no where to be seen.
I returned to the service desk to be informed that my case had been located and confirmed as left behind, more than 1000km away. There was no explanation as to why it didn’t get loaded onto the second transit flight, meeting me at our final destination. And no real apology. It was almost to be expected in these times after all.
The weary airline worker said I’d receive a text when my suitcase was in transit. It would be sent to our conference accommodation as quickly as possible. Hopefully, that evening. She handed me a small airline-logoed bag—an overnight pack. A toothbrush. Deodorant. And a generic set of PJs. Hmm. There wasn’t a lot of confidence there for a reunion with my belongings anytime today, then.
My stomach was turning. Were all my worldly possessions only what was hanging on my flesh and bones and in my handbag, standing in this foreign state, away from home? Oh dear. My mind went to the prepared conference materials sitting at the bottom of my suitcase. Hmm. Fingers crossed, my suitcase’s little holiday on its own hopefully would not be long. If it arrived the next day, in time for the first conference session which wasn’t until after the keynote – and a scrumptious morning tea – all would be fine.
We headed to the conference welcome and evening opening event. A nice casual gathering with some nibbles. My travel clothes would be acceptable.
There were many hugs as reunions with colleagues from schools across Australia started to occur. We were all excited about what the next few days of learning would bring.
The word had obviously gotten around. Poor Fiona. Yes...you heard correctly, my suitcase is missing. But it’s fine. It’ll arrive…probably tomorrow.
The next morning, I checked the hotel reception desk early. Had my suitcase arrived? Not yet. The airline had said I could track my case whereabouts on their website – but it wasn’t loading. The site was overwhelmed with business. The site kept “whirling” no matter how many times I tried refreshing and reloading it. Oh well. Day one of the conference. I could go to the near by shopping centre and purchase some personal items to get me through a day or so later in the afternoon if needed. Surely my bag would arrive tomorrow at the latest if not today.
The day passed. Evening dinner came. I swapped my jacket and scarf around…changed my earrings. Yes…I was wearing the same clothes. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go shopping, but surely my suitcase would arrive by then.
We could manage without the hard copies of conference workshop handouts by making digital copies available. It was all ok. There were worse things that could happen.
A second evening passed. The third day was about to begin. I looked like I would have to go buy one or two pieces of clothing if this were to go on another conference day. That night I was tempted to complain. I was starting to feel sorry for myself. Anger was rising against the airline. Didn’t they know I had four days away at a conference I needed my clothes and handouts for? A little bit of makeup? A change of shoes? My running gear! I needed to look professional…to look like I knew what I was doing as a leader and one of the main hosts of the conference! Even more embarrassing was that my new role within the organisation had been announced. Was everyone looking at me…in the same clothes?
But some words of scripture kept coming to mind. Colossians, chapter 3. As a planning team for the strand of the conference which my team was heading up, we had decided to use this passage to frame our intended learning outcomes throughout the conference days. We had decided that the words of this passage of scripture would shape our posture. Let me share it with you, from The Message paraphrase:
12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. (Colossians, 3:12-17, The Message)
So. I guess this time was one of spiritual growth for me. I could whine and complain: woe-as-to-me…everyone feel sorry for me! My suitcase didn’t arrive! Never trust that airline….
…Or I could decide to dress myself in the wardrobe especially picked out by my heavenly Father. And keep my cool. It really was ok. I could go buy a new dress for conference dinner I was hosting easily enough. How privileged am I among other women in this world that I could pull out my debit card and make a quick purchase between conference breaks?
I was blessed.
In the end, my suitcase arrived…in time for the last day of the conference.
But I still did my best to wear love…though it was nice to have some fresh clothes to travel home in.
Leaders and teachers…our character is so much more important than our appearance. Our lives lived out must flow from a deep knowledge that we are loved by God, chosen by Him, to live a life in response to Him.
Don’t worry about what you wear.
Let love be your all-round purpose garment. Never leave home without it. Then if your suitcase goes missing. You’ll be fine.