Sunday, September 23, 2012

The wisdom to know the difference

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

Sounds simple enough.  But it seems to me sometimes like a lifetime's task to figure out the part about knowing the difference.

There's poverty and violence and drugs in my city.  The people affected by such maladies seem to have a vastly different culture than I do.  I instinctively turn away from it.  Yesterday, I vowed not to.  Yesterday I vowed to reach out in kindness to all in my city.  Today at the laundromat I heard a woman yelling at her kid, so loud, so harsh.  I know that for a person to have such harshness within her, she must have had a harsh life.  I know she needs kindness.  But I don't think I'm the one to give it to her.  It hurts me to hear kids yelled at that way.  It hurts me, so I should do something.  I should help parents to raise their kids in a loving environment.  But I don't think I have the strength to do it.  When I hear it, even though I'm not the one being yelled at, it makes me cringe as if it is directed at me.  Putting myself in the line of verbal abuse is not where I need to be.

How much can a person really change? Sometimes we can move to a different situation, and sometimes a different situation allows us more chance to blossom.  But we can't change who we fundamentally are.  But who am I? What potentials lie within me, and what would it take to unlock them?

I know that I can be more than what I am in my current circumstance.  I know that I can be more vivacious, more willing to reach out to others.  I know that my current circumstance inspires me to curl up in a ball and hide from the world.  I know that is not what I want to be.  I know that I want to be who I was when I felt surrounded by people who supported me, who shared my values, and who could have intellectually stimulating conversations with me.

When I have that grounding of a community that does share my values, then that's what gives me the courage to reach out to also interact with those who do not share my values.

Every day I tell myself if I just work harder at it, I can get where I want to be.  I can get a different job.  I can be more compassionate.  I can get my house cleaned.  I can get my bills paid.  I can find a community that will believe in me.

Every day I tell myself I just have to work harder at it, but it never gets done.  My life is never transformed.  I'm still stuck here in the same place.

Telling myself to work harder at it doesn't get me there.  Is there anything that would get me there?  Or is this just who I am? Is it that it doesn't get any better than this?

My question a few paragraphs ago, "What potentials lie within me, and what would it take to unlock them?" reminds me of the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It's a beautiful concept on Buffy, but doing magic to unlock vampire slaying ability is one thing.  Is there anything that will help me unlock my life?

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