We carry a lot of spiritual baggage

By Helena Rodriquez: Freedom Newspapers

I just returned from an unforgettable trip to Tucson, Ariz., which made me realize 1) I don’t understand the concept of “light packing,” and 2) I also carry a lot of “spiritual baggage.”

My daughter Laura and I went with the youth group of St. Helen’s Catholic Church to a Steubenville Life Teen conference in the scorching desert. Traveling in three mini vans with 13 teenagers certainly made for a memorable road trip, not to mention a rather entertaining one, thanks to Mr. T., who didn’t let anyone in our van sleep on the way up there or back. Not that I’m complaining though. The group’s conversations and jokes were better than having a DVD player.

Our group sponsor, Elvia, shook her head when she saw all of the baggage that we girls brought. She said “This is not light packing!” something which is a foreign concept to our gender, especially when you’re talking about a five-day trip like we took. Everyone knows you can’t go to a desert area where there is 115-degree temperatures in July without a jacket … you know … just in case. And in spite of the humidity, which is sure to guarantee bad hair days, us girls wouldn’t dream of leaving our curling irons, hair straighteners and blow dryers behind.

The cargo space for the three mini vans was loaded from top to bottom with literally no room to squeeze in another bag. As you would guess, us girls accounted for most of the cargo space and I did feel guilty as our drivers had to strategically force everything to fit.

When it comes to packing, I learned the hard way that it is better to overpack than underpack. When I took my first extended road trip in college to California with a group of other students, I was stubborn and determined that the sun would be shining in the Golden State, only to be stuck there without a jacket and warm clothes while it rained all week. So now when I pack, I think of all kinds of scenarios, which inevitably leads to excess baggage and frowns from others.

For the record now, I did end up using nearly everything that I had packed, except for the jacket of course. Like I said earlier, though, you never know when you’re going to need a jacket in the middle of the desert, in the middle of the hottest month of the year.

As we packed all of our stuff back into the vehicles at the end of the conference, it required another balancing act to get all of our luggage to fit back into the vans. None of us girls left anything behind, including me. It seems like no matter where I go and no matter how hard I try, I always end up leaving something or another behind when I travel. I took extra precautions this time, though, and I even did several walk throughs to make sure I had not left anything behind in our hotel room.

Back in the van though, as I looked at the faces and into the eyes of all of the kids, and even us adults, I realized that we actually had left behind a lot of baggage in Tucson — spiritual baggage that is. I saw the joy and energy from the day before still on the kids’ faces as they had gotten excited about their faith during a praise and worship service and Mass. But the spiritual baggage that we had all brought on board with us, like fear of the unknown and fear of each other, our worries, insecurities and clinging to worldly things and thoughts, seemed to have all been left behind.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: