Many of us have been there at least once in our lives. Standing in a crowded airport, patiently waiting for our suitcases. Meanwhile, lots of look-alike luggage slowly passes by, piece by piece. All around are other passengers, hustling and bustling, grabbing their possessions and hurrying on. And still, we wait and we wait and we wait. Where the heck is that darn suitcase?
The Baggage Handler, by David Rawlings, begins with three very different people impatiently waiting at an airport turnstile. All three are looking for their suitcases to come around. The first person is a young workaholic husband/father named David. The second, Gillian, is a middle-aged wife and mother of three overly active, extremely messy teenage boys. The final person is Michael, a high school track star with an underlying passion for art. Despite their different lives, each is under pressure. David is desperate to save his job and his marriage. Gillian compares her life to others and finds herself lacking. Michael is desperate to please his hypercritical father by securing a track scholarship, even though he would rather paint.
In their haste to just “get through” the stress they are facing in their lives, all three characters grab the wrong black bags. And that is when the “fun” begins. Upon learning that they have the wrong suitcases, each character is instructed that they can retrieve their luggage at a strange facility located in a deserted section of the city. It is at this baggage claim that they encounter (again) the mystical Baggage Handler. The Baggage Handler teaches them an invaluable lesson: Everyone lugs around more emotional weight than they realize and that they must unload that extra baggage before they are allowed to move on.
…Dealing with baggage is hard. It requires effort or swallowing pride. Some people are so used to carrying their baggage, they don’t think they can exist without it. Some people say they need time to deal with it, but that time never arrives. But overall, for most people, …carrying baggage is just easier, despite the weight.
Dubbed a “modern-day parable”, The Baggage Handler is a thought-provoking and soul-searching read. I found myself immediately identifying with these characters: David must take responsibility and find forgiveness; Gillian must see the world as it really is, and Michael must learn to lead his life as he chooses. Like the baggage that each of these characters carries, this book was hard to let go. Long after I read the last word on the last page, its lesson remains. It is as if the Baggage Handler is with me, whispering wisdom in my ear.