What’s in My Bag?

bag contents

Several websites I like (such as Lifehacker and Cool Tools) have regular features, where they feature the contents of the bags of people who do unusual things for a living. I thought it would be fun to share the contents, and the thoughts behind the contents, of my pockets and everyday bag with you.

The important thing for me is the routine – it is an ADHD coping strategy of mine. If I know what I am going to wear, know what I am going to carry, know where I am going to go and how to get there, it means one less choice I have to make, one less thing I have to remember to do. Which is a good thing.

The problem is, I like variety, but need routine. So, I solved it in this instance by regularly changing bags, but keeping the contents the same. (Sneaky, huh?) I have all my loose stuff (detailed below) in a zipper bag, which I then move from bag to bag, confident that everything I need is in it. Most days, all my bag has in it is my laptop, charger and the zipper bag, which contains everything else.

In my pockets and on my person, everyday:

Fisher space pen – perfect for slipping in your pocket and forgetting about it. I have had several over the years – this one is blue, and I bought it in an office supply store in NYC a few years back to replace the one I lost. Not great for writing for long periods, but you never have to ask for a pen again. It also writes upside down, on slick paper and in pretty much any other circumstance you can think of.

Leather money clip/ card case.  – No bulging wallet for me.

Google Nexus 4, unlocked.  – Currently on AT&T. I feel sorta meh about AT&T, but a donor is generously paying for the monthly service, so I don’t complain. In a generic two piece armored case.

Swiss Army knife – Tinker model.  – I have carried one of these since I was a kid, watching MacGyver save the world each week with one of these and some duct tape. The good thing about the Tinker model is the Philips drive screwdriver instead of the useless corkscrew. Besides, most of the wine I drink these days comes with screw-off tops. Or in boxes. Pretty much on me unless I am flying or going to court.

Timex Expedition Trail Series – I love wristwatches, and Timex, as the commercials used to say, take a licking and keep on ticking. I thought the band was fugly, though, so I swapped it for this grey and black striped NATO band. No school like the old school.

Keys. Unremarkable, except I devised a hook out of an old fork that hangs on the edge of my pocket, thus keeping my keys from slipping down to the bottom of my pocket.

In my bag:

Today, my bag was a Mobile Edge Eco-Friendly messenger bag – I don’t love it, but it is quite functional. I do wish it were 10% smaller.

Here is what is in it:

Zipper bag – The zipper bag (black in the picture above) is the key to the whole system – it all goes in here, and then it goes in the bag itself. Pretty sure I bought this at Wal-Mart for about a dollar.

Mini USB mini-cable – Just three inches long (that’s what she said), but perfect for charging your devices or moving data. I have six foot long cables at my desk, home and in the car for routine charging,  but this is great for making sure I always have one with me. And essential to use with…

Powergen 5200mAh external battery – great for charging your phone or tablet in an emergency. It has its own built-in flashlight and charges just like a cellphone.

Safety scissors. TSA approved for air travel, and amazing how often you need a pair of scissors.

Kingston DTSE9 8GB flash stick.  – I think it is beautiful; the minimalist design appeals to me.  Sadly, I keep leaving it in things, so I had to tie a piece of string to it. With so much cloud storage, it isn’t strictly necessary any more, but I am pretty old school. Plus, it’s pretty.

Alpatronix headphones with built-in mic.  – I love so much about these. The inner-ear shape that stays put. The mic that just works. The flat cable, so no tangles. The right-angled plug, so it doesn’t snag on things. For less than $20, it is a no-brainer.

Lenovo X240 12.5 inch laptop.  – Super portable, with built-in airbags (!) and hard drive protection. I am still running Windows 7, and hoping I can one day skip Windows 8 altogether. Because it isn’t cheap, I keep a cable lock and neoprene sleeve close by.

Carmex lip balm.

Simple leather notebook, with Mead refills. – great for notes on the fly, or tearing off paper with your contact info on it to give to people. Because, of course, I left my cards at home.

Advil travel bottle, filled with Advil, Excedrin Migraine and Claritin. Because I am me, and am allergic to air.

Postcards – I buy postcards whenever It ravel, wander through bookstores or hit gift shops. I send them to folks when I have dead time or am stuck in airports, meaning you might get a postcard advertising Costa Rica, but mailed from the Wichita airport. Shrug – life is complicated.

Pilot G2 pens.  – The best writing pen for under $20, in my opinion. I always have one or more in my bag. (I forgot to put it in the picture. Because ADHD. And squirrels.)

Spork. Great for when lunch consists of something you grabbed at a convenience store or in the airport. I think I got this one at a camping store for a few bucks, but you could always raid the utensil rack at Taco Bell.

There you go. What do you carry with you every day?

Will D. Campbell on The Church

Photo via Associated Press

Photo via Associated Press

Hell, I don’t know what the church is. Jesus said something about the fact that He was going to build the church. He did say that nothing would prevail over it . . . even the gates of Hell, but He didn’t ask me to build it. And He certainly didn’t ask me to define it. I believe the church is at work in the world only because of my faith in this Jesus person. Trouble is, I don’t know what Jesus is up to or where His church is. That’s good because if I found the church then I’d give it a name and start running it.

Will Campbell, “Interview with The Wittenburg Door,” in Writings on Reconciliation and Resistance, 71-72.

WTH? My love for Will D. Campbell is well known. This post is part of a series – Wednesdays with Will, where I post a quote or selection from Brother Will that has been particularly inspirational or meaningful to me.

Seven Reasons Poor People Rent to Own Furniture

Ace Rent To Own Furniture
Last week, the Washington Post ran an article with the provocative title, Rental America: Why the Poor Pay $4150 for a $1500 Sofa. Reaction on social media among my friends who have shared it has been… interesting.

What has shocked me most is the utter lack of empathy people have shown toward the woman in particular and people who are economically poor in general.

I swear, if one more person talks about how ‘When I was poor, during grad school, I bought my couch on Craigslist for $70”, I might just snap. Being poor, by definition, means your options are limited. Poverty is, more than anything, about lack of choices.

Yes, I know that you can go on craigslist and find a couch for $50, as I saw someone on Facebook mention. But that assumes that a) you have access to a computer connected to the internet b) know how to use a computer c) know how to use the internet d) have a phone to call the number on craigslist, and further, that you control the number, so when you leave a message for them to call you back, they get you and not the person who’s phone you borrowed and e) have a means of going to look at the couch and f) getting the couch from their house to your house. Oh, and g) have the time to go do that.

If you are keeping track at home, that is seven things that have to be going your way before you can “get a couch on craigslist.” Lose any of those seven and no couch for you. Meanwhile, you can walk into any rental store in the country, hand over that same $50 and have a brand new couch that you picked out and is exactly the colors you want, in your living room, before dark.

That is pretty much a no-brainer. Especially if it means you get to feel normal for a few hours.

Did you catch that last sentence? The ability to feel normal, to fit in, to be like everyone else is something poor people rarely get to feel.

In our culture, “normal’ people don’t buy used furniture. The culture tells us, via countless ads, the TV shows we watch, the things our friends share on Facebook and the messages our politicians tell us (go stimulate the economy!) that the way to be a good citizen is to buy things that are like the things everyone else has.

Poverty is stigmatized by our society. Being poor and standing out is almost the unpardonable sin. When you are poor, you want to blend in, to fade away. Countless memories of being teased in school because you had the wrong clothes or showing up underdressed for events have taught you that no good at all comes from standing out. So, you try really hard to fit in, to be like everyone else.

When being normal (based on what you see around you) involves having portable electronics, smart phones, and a car, asking people to delay all of that so they can meet your idea of what is prudent is, perhaps, unrealistic.  Especially when entire industries exist to cater to your desire to fit in. And especially since one on three of us are obese, so obviously self-control is not our strongest suit as a nation.

So, yes, you can buy a new couch for $70 a week. Or a new big-screen TV for $40 a week. And when you have spent all day doing back-breaking, mind-numbing physical labor, coming home and smoking a cigarette while seated on your comfortable couch and watching a fantasy unfold on the bigscreen TV so you can, just for a few minutes, forget how unbearably exhausting your own life is isn’t only understandable, but probably the sanest possible response you are capable of mustering.

Hugh for Hire

meijer chicken

Disclosure: Self-promotion is weird for me. I spent most of my twenties in sales, and while I was good at it, I always felt like a dude in a chicken suit trying to get attention. The fact that I liked the attention didn’t make it less awkward.

But the reality is, part of my work is sharing our ideas about how to engage poverty and missions and, in fact, each other. Also part of my reality is I don’t make a lot of money doing this, and we are a one income family because of my wife’s health.

In order to keep my salary at Love Wins Ministries low (and thus decrease my strain on the organization’s meager budget), I supplement my income by speaking and writing. An average of once a month, I get on a train or plane and go to another place, share what I have to say with an audience.

It’s usually about How People of Faith Can Do Good Better, How Relationships Can Change the World, or my Framework for Understanding Homelessness, but sometimes I consult with faith communities about effective benevolence plans and ways to structure local mission plans that honor people, and sometimes I lecture in college classrooms or church basements.

This website is my primary way of promotion, and here you can find the process to book me to speak, you can find my schedule of upcoming events and what folks who have heard me have to say and you can also find lots of pictures of my cats.

If you need someone to lead a retreat, preach a sermon, keynote an event or lead a seminar, especially on one of the above topics, please check out my page that tells you how to invite me to speak. And then send me an email to hughlh@gmail.com to get the conversation started.