When I was growing up, the small truckstop my parents owned was a hub of activity. People would stop by and the conversation would flow. If you wanted to know anything that was going on in Waldo, my parents usually knew it - not because they were gossips, but because folks would just stop by and talk. My parents were always well informed on local “goings-on” as well as state and national news that was passed on by our customers.
As I got older, this “knowing all” became somewhat an obsession with me. I felt like I just had to watch both the early news and the late evening news, that I had to read the paper cover to cover, and I was always ready to hear the latest from a friend or an acquaintance.
Over time, I began to realize that the information that I was hearing left me with more questions than answers. Understandably, the reports from friends and acquaintances were from their perspective. No doubt, they were well intentioned while delivering their stories, but it was how they saw it. Hearing the same story told by another friend had differing “facts” as they told the story from their perspective. It was mind numbing trying to figure out what was really going on!
And the news was even more difficult to figure out. The various news outlets reported things differently. Yes, they have sources and experts but each outlet emphasized and de-emphasized different things. This variable would lead me to different conclusions. Who was wrong? Who was right? What don’t I know?!
Then one day, I asked myself, “How does all this information enhance my life? Does it make me happier to hear ANY of this ‘information’?”
As I was pondering this question, I was visiting with a good friend whose has a terminal disease. I began talking about various things and issues of the day and he basically said, “I stopped watching the news years ago. When I got sick, I decided I had enough burdens. The problems of the world can not be solved by me. But, if I keep a positive attitude and concentrate on myself and my family, I can help remediate the problems my health are causing in our own little world. Focusing my efforts on what I can change has made my life much happier.”
This conversation reminded my of the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:
GOD, grant me the serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change,
Courage to change the
things I can, and the
wisdom to know the difference.
The 24/7 news that comes to every electronic device does not enhance my serenity.
And I am not saying that I keep my head in the sand. I do watch the news and read the newspapers.
But I don’t leave the news channels on all day, I don’t get news alerts on my phone and I don’t internalize it.
And when something comes up that I feel passionate about and I feel I can affect change, I take action! For instance, after learning about the Southeast Asia Tsunami, I felt passionate about helping the victims so I went out and raised money to build homes for the displaced. Additionally, I’ve helped people who ran for public office whom I felt would be good officials. I know I can make a difference if I concentrate on the things I can change and let go of and accept the things I can’t.
Devoting too much attention to the things we cannot change, we expend physical, emotional and mental energy that could be directed elsewhere. Accepting that there are some things we cannot change does not make us complacent. It constitutes a leap of faith — an ability to trust in God. It takes courage.
As I draw from the Serenity Prayer in my daily life, I have made a choice to let go and have faith in the outcome. Putting this prayer into action, I’ve made my life more joyful and I am more at peace.