I wonder what she packed in here. Eric thought. It weighs a ton. He opened it to find his shirts neatly pressed and folded with appropriate ties clipped to the neck. He removed and hung them in the closet. Then he saw his pants folded along the crease lines and laid carefully over so that they didn't wrinkle. After hanging them up, he returned to find his underwear and socks in one of the inside pockets. His razor and cologne were packed in his shaving kit.
After emptying the suitcase, Eric closed and zipped it. Then he lifted it to place it on the floor in the closet. It was still heavy. What else can be in here, he thought. When he heard the sound of things hitting together, he placed the suitcase back on the bed. He unzipped one of the outside pockets and was amazed
As was his habit when traveling, he called home at 9:45 p.m. By that time, everyone was in the house and he could hear the news from each of them. His daughter answered the phone. She was the youngest and always eager to talk to her daddy. She told him about everything that happened in school that day. At least it seemed to Eric like she told everything. Then his son took the receiver.
"Hey, Steven. What happened at school today?"
"Nothing? Were there teachers there?"
"Then how could nothing happen?"
"Dad, it was the same old, same old. Do you have to ask me that every time you call?"
"I'm not listening to this." Steven yelled back and handed the phone to his mother.
Sighing Veronica took the receiver. "Hello?"
"Now do you understand what I've been tell you? Did you hear the way your son talked to me? If I had talked to my dad that way, I wouldn't be here today." Eric demanded.
"Yes, I heard the way our son talked to you and I heard the way you talked to him. He just wants you to talk to him about something besides school. Can't you ask about his hobbies or his friends?"
"I don't know anything about his hobbies or his friends. They are probably just like him which means I'm better off not knowing them."
Veronica sighed silently to avoid another tongue lashing. "I just think you could speak to him kinder."
"Kinder? Do you think kindness is going to make a man out of him? This world is not kind and if he can't take it, he won't last. He better learn to suck it up like I did."
Soon she fell asleep without bothering to change into a nightgown. She woke the next morning feeling as bad or worse than if she hadn't slept at all. She woke the children and went about her routine with a heavy heart.
Eric hadn't slept much better. Why can't they show me a little respect? I bring home the money. I provide for them. I serve the church. Why can't my family show me the respect other people do?
His first meeting was at 9:00 a.m. with a board of trustees. He arrived early and was shown into the conference room. He set up his laptop and projector, feeling proud of the presentation he had prepared.
One by one the trustees filed into the room and took their seats. Not one of them acknowledged his presence. The chairman introduced Eric and asked him to begin.
Five minutes into the presentation, he noticed that no one was listening. Two members were deep in a low tone conversation with each other. Another seemed to be writing a contract. The others were busy with one thing or another.
As he finished, one member looked up and said, "Look, Ethan."
"Well, whatever. We only allowed you to come because we had already made the appointment. We have made our decision. I think your product is a piece of crap and I would be embarrassed to have our company name on it."
"This product is endorsed by some of the Fortune 500 companies. It is a quality product."
"Well, I think it's crap and you are a shyster. You've made your presentation, now please leave the premises and don't call again."
Eric left a full two hours earlier than he had anticipated. He had blocked off the entire morning for this meeting and it had ended in 30 minutes. He walked to the nearest coffee shop. While waiting for his order, he called Veronica.
When she answered he could tell she was upset. "What's wrong?" He asked. He loved her dearly and hated when she was upset. "Did Steven upset you? Was he rude to you? I'll take care of that when I get home."
"No, Eric. Steven didn't upset me. You did. I don't like the way you speak to him."
"You are so sensitive. I am trying to make a man out of him."
"I think there might be better ways."
"How about we talk about my morning, please?" Eric said like a spoiled child.
"Okay, how was your morning?"
Eric told her word for word what was said.
"Well, the man has a right to his opinion." She told him.
"He could have chosen another way to say it." Eric said angrily.
"Oh, you mean he could have been kinder. Well, this world is not kind. You won't make it in this world if you wait for kindness. I have confidence in you. You'll suck it up and go on. Goodbye." With those words, Veronica hung up the receiver.
Eric went back to the hotel. After realizing that tomorrow's meeting was close to the airport, he decided to move to a hotel on that side of town. That would make it easier to catch his flight after the meeting.
He packed his bag and carried it to the front desk, making a mental note to ask Veronica about her joke. Those darn rocks were heavy. He checked out of the hotel and loaded his rock filled bag into the trunk.
The drive to the chosen hotel didn't take as long as he thought. He enjoyed the fields of crops along the side of the road. By the time he arrived at the hotel, his spirits were much better.
At precisely 9:45 p.m. he called home. When Steven got on the phone, Eric made a special effort to speak kindly. "Hey, Steven. How was your day?"
"Good, good. How is the team doing? Are we going to make the playoffs?"
"Dad, we have been out of the playoffs for two weeks. We've already talked about that."
"Well, I can't remember. You know my memory is terrible. Well, have a good day tomorrow. I'll be home tomorrow night." After saying good night to Veronica, Eric went to bed quite pleased with himself. He had conducted a decent conversation with his son. That was rewarding.
The flight home was uncomfortable. The steps up the bus to the Park and Ride seemed three feet apart. He tried lifting his suitcase but could only get it to the first step. The bus driver finished loading the suitcase and then unloaded it at Eric's car. Eric was left to load it in the trunk himself. It took every ounce of strength he had. Again, he waited for the spasms to ease before driving home.
By the time he arrived home, the pain was undeniable. He parked the car and then used his cell phone to call Veronica. "Hon, I need your help. Can you help me get into the house?"
Veronica and Steven both came to the garage. Carefully, they help Eric out of the car. He leaned on their shoulders as he slowly walked into the house. Thankfully they had chosen a house with the master bedroom on the first floor. After several minutes, they made it to the comfortable bed Eric loved. Then there was the effort of lying down. Sitting down on the bed was bad enough. When Steven tried to lift his legs for him, Eric screamed with pain.
Veronica called the doctor and made a trip to the pharmacy for the prescription. That night, Eric was still uncomfortable but in far less pain than when he arrived home.
"How did you hurt your back?" Veronica asked.
"Carrying those stupid rocks you put in my suitcase."
"They were heavy?"
"Yes, they were heavy."
"Then why did you keep carrying them? Why not just put them down?"
"You put them in my suitcase so I kept them."
"Did I tell you to keep them?"
"Just because someone puts something in your bag doesn't mean you have to carry it. You can take it out anytime you want. It's the same way in life Eric. As we go through life, people put things in our bags. They disappoint us. They hurt us. They fail us. But that doesn't mean we have to carry the pain forever. We can put it down anytime we want. All we have to do is hand it to Christ and leave it there." Veronica turned out the light.
Eric laid in the dark thinking about the pain in his life. It hadn't been an easy life. Now his son was paying for it. Lord, please help me not to pack my son's bag with the things my dad packed in mine. Please help me empty my bag so I can be the man you want me to be. Amen.