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.
My wife reminded me of this as I was walking out the door the other day. It's the Serenity Prayer, and it is very popular among the recovery set. It's actually the truncated version of Reinhold Niebuhr's original which goes on to be a little more specific in its religiosity, with a number of capital H "Hims." But it's that initial sentiment that sticks in my head, and has for most of my adult life. Know the difference between things you can change and things that you just have to leave alone.
The challenge I had this week was most blatantly defined by the couch in the middle of the street. To be more precise, the couch that was left to block traffic going up or down the street which I travel on to and from school each day. It sat squarely in the middle, perpundicular to the sidewalks. It could have been dropped there on some bizarre early morning furniture move, but the placement gave every indication of being some sort of prank. I could have ridden carefully around it and been on my way, accepting the garbage left in the streets of Oakland as something that I cannot change. But it didn't take much courage for me to get off my bike and drag the dirty beige mess out of the way of any motorists who hadn't already encountered the roadblock.
Was that wise? Was it courageous? I don't know. I know that after I got back on my bike, I felt a twinge. It might have been smugness. It might have been serenity. I don't know if I have the wisdom to know the difference yet.