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.
I see a lot of protest signs these days about changing the things we can’t accept. And, despite this being one of my favorite and most repeated prayers, I agree to an extent. Somethings just aren’t acceptable. But there is real power in asking for the courage to change the things we can. Once upon a time I felt that there was very little I could change. The truth is that I was too cowardly to change myself and that’s where all real change starts. We can’t make the world over how we wish it. But we can make ourselves fit for the world we wish for. If we want a world of peace and prosperity for all we’re gonna have to start in our own hearts, then in the relationships closest to our hearts, spreading out one by one and link by link.
You don’t teach a child to speak respectfully by being rude to him, to be nice to his sister by hitting him, to share by being stingy. You teach respect by modeling respect. You teach love and peace and kindness and generosity and all those other good things by living them.
My son just had an adult he was talking to on the phone hangup on him. And I can’t help but think that he is learning a terrible lesson from this. A grownup in his life is teaching him that this is how to communicate and maintain control in relationships. And of course, there’s nothing I can do to change the other grownup. He is what he is. And nothing I can do to change my kid or the lesson he’s learning from this. Other people are beyond my power to change.
Other people includes absolutely everyone. My kids. The people they interact with. My ex husband. My parents. My siblings. My friends. My enemies. The cashier at the corner store. The heads talking on the news. The dude who spent all morning whitesplaining to one of my immigrant friends on my Facebook post. The con-artist turned politician with orange hair. There’s no one on this planet I can change.
Me. I can change me. And there is a lot of power in changing me. Asking for courage is a great first step. One brave girl can change the world.
And here’s a secret, something no one taught you in school. Love changes people. I can’t change anyone. But I can change me to be able to love anyone. Education and facts and all that rarely had much of any impact on hate and prejudice and intolerance and thoughtlessness and selfishness. But I do know, as a fact because I’ve experienced it in my own life and seen it operate in the lives of others, that love changes people. This is how we change ourselves to change the world.
I’m not talking about love as how I feel about someone. Feelings are fickle. And I’m most certainly not talking about love as the facts of any situation. Facts are no more reliable than feelings in this world. I just watched someone parade a pile of “facts” about race and ethnicity across Facebook that were carefully picked to avoid reality or any semblance of love or listening or relationship. Neither rationality nor emotionality is any use at all when it comes to any form of love or relationship. I’m talking about love as action.
Love as action takes real courage. Love isn’t what we feel nor what we think. Love is what we do. It’s how we spend our time and resources. Sometimes love looks like a call to your representatives to encourage them to listen to constituents instead of big-dollar donors. Sometimes love looks like some research before heading to the ballot box. Sometimes love looks like holding a crying child. Sometimes love looks like brewing fresh coffee while a friend talks about her troubles. Sometimes love looks like mailing a letter from the post-office to buy an international stamp. Sometimes love looks like collecting housewares to welcome a refugee family.
Love is what we do and this is the love that changes the world. Love is a revolutionary political act.
It’s true that there are a lot of things I cannot chance, a lot of things I am powerless over. Other people are right at the top of that list. And it is also true that there are no situations in which I am powerless. No one and nothing can take the power of love from me. I can still choose to act with love, to do love, no matter what. But it does take huge heaps of courage. Ask and it shall be given.