As an airport skycap checked through a customer at curbside, he accidentally knocked over the man's luggage. He quickly collected the fallen bags and apologized for the mishap. Unappeased, the traveler burst into an angry tirade, raging and swearing at the skycap for his clumsiness.
Throughout the traveler's rant, the baggage handler calmly apologized and smiled. The livid customer continued to berate the man, even as he turned away and headed for his gate. Through it all the baggage handler smiled and remained calm.
The next customer in line witnessed the incident and marveled at the skycap's professionalism and self control. "I have never seen such restraint and humility," he said. "How do you keep your cool when somebody is attacking you so viciously?"
"It's easy," the skycap answered. "He's going to London, but his bags are going to Tokyo."
I won't recommend that we use revenge to relieve stress. But let me tell you about someone who has found a way to go through most of his life unfazed by the turbulence that affects most people.
He is one of the calmest people I've ever known and he describes how he keeps his cool no matter how turbulent a situation becomes. He says, "I look at it this way. A traffic jam has no power to make me angry. It just stops my car. And that's the way I try to look at most of what happens to me." With that philosophy, this guy goes through life with a serenity I can only envy.
My friend likes to say things like, "A rude customer has no power to make me angry; he just fusses." And, "A mistake I made has no power to make me upset; it's just a chance to do better." He shows how we can truly find calmness in the midst of chaos.
Eminent 20th Century American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a short prayer that has been reprinted countless times. Bill Wilson, co-founder of the support group Alcoholics Anonymous, became familiar with the prayer about 1941. He edited and adapted it, and
then circulated it with the title "Serenity Prayer." You are likely familiar with his version:
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
The prayer has been a great help to many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people over the years. And the truth of the matter is that there is much which cannot be changed. We can't do anything about this evening's traffic. Another person's reaction is
not something we can control. Furthermore, we may have made any number of mistakes that we probably regret, but they are in the past and that is something we cannot change. Reliving the past does not help us change the future.
There's a certain power in calmness. And those who learn to accept with serenity that which they cannot change will find power to change those things they can.