Sep 10, 2012

Serenity in Chaos

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.

-- Steve Goodier

Sep 1, 2012

Cranky Old Man

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

One nurse took her copy to Melbourne. The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.

And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet. 


Cranky Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . . . What do you see?
What are you thinking . . . . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man . . . . not very wise,
Uncertain of habit . . . . with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food . . . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . . . . 'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . . . the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . . lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . . The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking? . . . . Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse . . . . you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . . . . As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding . . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . . . . with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters . . . . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . . with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . . my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows . . . . that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . . . With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons . . . . have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more . . . . Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing . . . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles . . . . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone . . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . . . . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . . . gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people . . . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man
Look closer . . . . see . . . . . . . . ME!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. We will all, one day, be there, too!

PLEASE SHARE THIS POEM (originally by Phyllis McCormack; adapted by Dave Griffith)