A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE
The conversation was lively that day, even though the subject was . . . well, unmentionable.
Not that there was anything unseemly being discussed. It was an appropriate conversation between a mother and her teenage daughter. They were talking about . . . you know . . . stuff. Lady stuff. The kind of lady stuff about which moms need to talk with their teenage daughters.
Unfortunately, it wasn't just moms and teenage daughters driving together in the car that day. There was also 9-year-old Elizabeth, soaking it all in even though most of the conversation was taking place about six feet over her head. Ditto 7-year-old Jonathan (although it is sometimes difficult to tell whether he is "soaking it all in" or just having another Nintendo flashback).
Then there was the driver -- uh, that would be me. I was trying to be mature about the whole thing. I sat there, silently listening, occasionally nodding my head. But beneath the surface, where no one could see, I had my hands over my ears and I was loudly chanting "La-la-la-la-la. . . "
Hey, I may be a father, but I'm also a guy. And talking about lady stuff makes guys go "la-la."
So we're cruising along, minding our "lady stuff" business (or trying not to mind it, as the case may be), when all of a sudden a little voice emanates from the back seat: "I have a question."
Those are chilling words to a parent, especially coming out of the mouth of a 7-year-old. Especially when he's a boy, and the topic on the table is . . . well, you know. We wondered how much he had heard. We wondered how much he had understood. We wondered how long it would be before we saw his face on the cover of the National Enquirer with the headline: "Psychopathic Teenager Blames Parents Who Forced Him to Listen to Lady Stuff."
We braced ourselves: "What is it, Jon?"
He paused, thoughtfully. Then he asked: "Can I have something to eat?"
Turns out Jon wasn't at all concerned that he didn't understand the things that were being discussed in the front seat of the car. He was content in his own world, except for one thing: he was hungry. But he knew what he could do about that, and he focused on taking care of the situation.
In many ways, I wish I could be more like Jon. I find myself spending an awful lot of time worrying about Things I Can't Do Anything About. Some of them are cosmic and incomprehensible. Others are just silly -- uncontrollable irritants in an imperfect world. These days, for example, it's the NBA Playoffs. When my team wins, I worry that they'll become complacent. When they lose, I worry that they have lost confidence. When the breaks go their way, I worry that the victory will be tainted. When the breaks go against them, I worry that the entire league is conspiring to get them.
I worry about my team a lot. But when it comes right down to it, my worrying doesn't make a bit of difference. It doesn't help them to play better or to have a better attitude or to STOP TAKING SO MANY STUPID SHOTS AND PLAY BETTER DEFENSE!!!
See what I mean?
It just frustrates me, and that doesn't help anyone. Which is not to say that I'm recommending a "don't worry, be happy" approach to life. There are plenty of things about which we should be concerned, and we should do everything we can to make positive changes in the world. But in the words of a well-known prayer, we need to ask God to grant us "the courage to change the things that I can change, the serenity to accept the things I can't change, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Unmentionable, or not.
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--- (c) Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book,"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.