Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 63, May 15, 2020

One of the unintended consequences of the Coronavirus is that it has lowered our expectations. Before things shut down, a place like Facebook would feature photos of people traveling the world, eating out at nice restaurants, attending plays on Broadway, getting caught up in the noise of the crowd at a ballpark, or singing along at a concert with a celebrity performer. Before the Coronavirus shut things down, there were studies that showed seeing others engaged in such awesome activities was having a negative effect on people. They were dissatisfied with their own lives. Seeing how others were living raised expectations, and for many, they felt like their life did not match those high expectations.

And then the Coronavirus hit. Things shut down. We were all in the same boat, stuck at home with little or nothing to do. The smallest thing became the biggest deal. There’s a Disney singalong. Oh my goodness. We can’t miss that! The mail should be arriving sometime in the next four hours…so we watch intently out the window and listen for the putt putt sound of the mail truck. It’s Friday. We get our milk delivery today. Our faces are pressed to the glass as we wait expectantly for the arrival of our friendly Munroe Dairy driver.

High expectations have gone out the window. The smallest things get us excited. Why? Because we have low expectations. One of my favorite posts during this Coronavirus Crisis was when our friend Trish posted, “Now I understand why Laura Ingalls would get so excited when she would get to go into town with Pa.”

Low expectations are not a bad thing. High expectations set us up for failure. Low expectations set us up to be surprised. I read a story a few years ago about low expectations. The story was a beautiful reflection on life. A man wrote a thank you note to his mom. He wrote it late in his life. In fact, he wrote his mother the thank you note thirty years after she died. I understand that. It can take a long time to appreciate fully and to thank properly the folks who have played such a significant role in our lives.

Well, thirty years after his mother died, this man wrote his mother a thank you note. In the note he remembered a day from sixty years before, when he was just a child. In that thank you note to his mother, a note he wrote to her even though she had been deceased thirty years, he told her how he vividly remembered the day when his dad brought home a watermelon. They took the watermelon, put it in the river, and let the cold waters chill the melon through and through. Then they cracked it open and ate it all. He wrote, “How simple and memorable a good day can be when expectations are low.”

I stopped reading. I closed that book. For the longest time I pondered what an incredible gift it is to have low expectations. When our expectations are low, just about everything that comes our way comes as a gift, a surprise, even a blessing. If what the studies say is true about Facebook and social networking, we are becoming trained to have high expectations. Those high expectations come with a cost. Things such as a watermelon, chilled in a stream, eaten together with mom and dad and a hungry little brother, can be cast aside and downplayed because they are not big, impressive, or expensive. This man knew better. He wrote a thank you note about it. Some sixty years after the fact, he wrote a thank you note. Such are the blessings of low expectations.

I am not alone in appreciating the value of low expectations. I read the story about the watermelon in the summer of 2013. After I read the story, I posted a reflection about low expectations on Facebook of all places. That post drew 24 comments. It seems people do realize the significance of little things. For many, that image of a family sharing a cold watermelon reminded them of childhood experiences when low expectations yielded precious memories like a dad bringing home fresh donuts on a Saturday morning or making root beer floats as a family, or as in the case of our friend Trish, getting as excited as Laura Ingalls to make a trip into town.

But those memories of low expectations tell another story. It isn’t just the watermelon…or the root beer…or the donuts. What makes those times so memorable is they are shared with a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, or a friend. One of the comments that day on Facebook was from a high school friend whom I have not seen since our graduation in June of 1979. Connecting the surprises that accompany low expectations to the loved ones with whom those memories are shared brought forth a bittersweet response from my high school classmate. He wrote, “I lost a really good friend this spring and it still hurts.” He is not alone. The man who wrote about low expectations in a letter to his mom confesses in that letter how even after 30 years he still desperately misses his mother. Who would have thought reflecting on low expectations would yield such tender touches. Some memories of the blessings that surprised me when my expectations were low are now the high-water marks of my life. Those memories bring both joy and tears. Let me finish with one final response I received when I posted about low expectations. A dear friend from Sacramento wrote: “As you get older, you begin to appreciate the little things. When my grandmother was in her 80’s she told me, ‘I don’t get less busy. Things just take a little longer. I stop to listen to the birds sing and notice the new flowers blooming.’” May our expectations never be so high that we miss the birds singing, the flowers blooming, the waves crashing, the stars shining, and the juice from a watermelon dripping down our face as we enjoy it in the company of family and friends. The Coronavirus has taken much from us all. But if it has given us back an appreciation for low expectations, at least I’m thankful for that.

With the love of Christ,