Control. Is this a want or a need?
So many situations we encounter on a daily basis end up being outside our grasp. Yet, we sordidly work so hard to capture control over things that are clearly not. Case in point, my family’s trip out West this past summer. Upon arrival at the Las Vegas airport, we scurried through the crowd, straining for a view of the signs pointing to the baggage claim. Finally, we made it. By the time we got there, our luggage was already swirling around the rack. We each fought our way to our respective bag and grabbed it off the line. Four of us returned to our spot. But, we’re a family of 5. We glanced around to see who was missing, it was Kya, who was hopelessly meandering around the carousel wondering where her bag may have gone. We scoured the rack for 5 more minutes finally relenting to the fact that her bag just wasn’t there. We decided to wait a few more minutes to see if it’d magically pop out of the slot and slide down the chute. All to no avail.
It occurred to us that maybe it was on another carousel nearby, so we all frantically shifted our positions to other racks to see if we could spot the missing bag. 30 minutes later, we decided to throw in the towel. To the lost baggage claim we trekked hoping somehow her bag had landed there.
Upon arrival, there was a corral of luggage situated in a roped off area. This was luggage that had swirled one too many times on the carousel and had been transported to the lost baggage claim. And there, with all that was in me, was her bag. My heart leapt with joy as I asked the agent if we could see that one. She kindly let me in, only for me to read the tag…”Hannah” it read. “How did they misspell Kya so badly?” I murmured. Then it hit me… the bags were identical. Hannah had grabbed the wrong one! My heart sank. I looked at Kya and asked her what was in her bag. Her eyes welled up with tears as she thought through all the clothes and knick-knacks and toiletries and things that she had painstakingly packed just for herself. Now we’d have to go buy a whole new set of things. And, tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about how this made the trip more expensive, more delayed, and more annoying.
In the nick of time, the lost baggage claim lady said, “Hey, this isn’t a problem. This happens all the time! I’ll just call them and have them return it. This is a case of a swapped bag. Goodness knows Hannah wants her own stuff too!” And with that, we followed her into her office for her to place the call. My mind immediately went below the line, “There’s no way they’re going to answer a call from some unknown number.” But sure enough, they did. And ultimately, they came to the realization that they had the wrong bag. By that time, they were 40 minutes away from the airport, well into their trip to whatever vacation they were going on. They had to get themselves off the freeway to get turned around back to the airport. So, we waited, knowing this wasn’t within our control, but knowing what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. And eventually, we got Kya’s bag back…and Hannah got hers.
Why do we fret so much about things outside of our control? Why do we honk in traffic knowing it serves no purpose other than express a need to control the uncontrollable. Why do we worry about the weather, other people’s opinions, and the passing of time? We cannot control people’s thoughts, feelings, actions and beliefs.
But we can control ours.
What would happen if we stopped trying to fix others and worked on the things we can influence instead? What if, when we lose our luggage, we smile, take a deep breath and display gratitude that there’s a store nearby to replace it all anyhow? What if we worked on our own attitudes and outlook? What if we turned off the news and conspiracies and politics and read a good book, had coffee with a friend and colored a picture? What if we wrote a thank you note and went for a walk and focused on the 5 things we can control every day: Attitude, Words, Actions, Manners, Effort.
May we claim the Serenity Prayer: 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.
And may we today, embrace our purpose, for we’ve been given unique control over the gifts and skills in which we’ve been blessed. And may we use them to be a blessing to others today.