Great expectations

I am excited about my trip to Germany this coming week. The ticket was a gift from my former German host mother from long ago when I was eighteen and stupid. Ten days of no set agenda, no prior obligations, no parenting responsibilities. I have great expectations.

I’ve been thinking about expectations – why some are high, and others low. Unmet expectations are the stuff of disappointment . This, I feel, is the root of my “really, really bad day” last week.

Why do I expect certain things? Because of experience grounded in reality. I expect that I will rarely see the sun during a Tennessee winter, I will need a cup of coffee every morning, and I’ll have to wipe my old Boston Terrier’s butt when she comes in from outside.

I don’t get angry or disappointed with Tennessee, rant or rave when we inevitably run out of coffee, or fuss at “Bunny” for being a little on the incontinent side. In the reality of my life I have come to expect these happenings.

My view of people is, however, rooted in more than just experience. There is a deeper core of knowledge – an instinct of appropriateness of behavior – that is universal: A mother should love her baby and nurture it, a husband should protect his family, animals should be fed and cared for by their owners. News of domestic abuse of children or animals arouses indignation, horror, and pity. We could ask why we are bothered by this? Doesn’t our experience with real life tell us that it happens over and over, year after year? Isn’t it natural? Expected? Why hasn’t the fact that this is inevitable and constant in life eliminated my disappointment in this kind of behavior?

I personally believe that it is because what used to be good is now gone wrong. A world once created perfect, is now flawed. And everybody knows it. How else can you account for the fact that what we consider good behavior is often what goes against our natural instinct? Yet, this is what a hero does. A hero runs into the burning building to save the little child. A hero throws his body over a grenade and saves his platoon. A hero doesn’t eat, but gives her only food to her children. A hero works three jobs and keeps a roof over his family’s head. A hero faces another day of chemotherapy. A hero does what we know is truly right. We feel the rightness of it down in our very gut, though recognizing that it is a rightness that should be easy, but isn’t.

Why did no one seek to comfort me and my kids for that miserable hour, alone but in the middle of a busy front lobby last week? Because it was the natural thing, the easy thing to look away. Why did that disappoint me? Because in my heart, I know that people were created to be heroes every day, but we can’t do it any more. We’ve been letting other people down and ourselves since a terrible day long ago when two people, in a beautiful garden, decided that God didn’t really mean what He said. They could do better, they thought.

Just look at us, your children.

All we have left is a knowing, deep inside, that it is supposed to be better than this. We are supposed to be better than this.


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