A puppy on leash was gingerly walking along a reservoir path with eyes and nose tuned into the pleasant surprises along the way. Suddenly two dogs also on leash lunged at him with ferocious barking and hissing. Both sets of owners kept the threatening dogs away from the startled puppy who then continued along the path after his owners commented that this was his first frightening encounter.
As he rounded the next bend, he first passed walkers who were gleefully hanging Christmas ornaments on a leafless tree. After the puppy checked out the tree decorating, he saw a bigger puppy on leash who laid on the path to signal his friendliness to the younger puppy. They playfully schmoozed, and the younger puppy moved along with continuing expectation of whatever he might encounter.
The holiday season is all about expecting. But positive human expectation is preceded by hope and succeeded by anticipation. Without hoping, there may be surprises, positive or negative, but not the expectation that springs from deep longings supported by hope. Without expecting, there is no anticipating. The combination of hoping for, expecting and anticipating longed for gifts, events and experiences provides satisfaction even before the moment arrives that fulfills our inner promptings. How often have we felt that our anticipations are almost as satisfying as our anticipated experiences and outcomes!
However, we may find ourselves expecting and anticipating what we dread. We are not naïve to threatening or disappointing experiences like the puppy. It is reasonable to be alert and adverse to what might cause us harm, set backs or losses. The problem comes when pain, suffering and dashed dreams cause us to let go of hope, which sustains us.
This is a time when we can step out on our path along life’s reservoirs of refreshing waters, and reach inside and all around us for renewed hope about what matters to us. We may be short on companionship and support, meaningful vision and plans, or clarity about where we fit in and can contribute to our troubled world. If so, we can allow a puppy or toddler, a fresh wisp of air or warm and gentle smile and touch, an image of someone suffering or a seasonal communication from someone special to rekindle our hopefulness, and thereby our expectation and anticipation of opportunities we otherwise may have missed seeing and embracing.
Robert Kennedy’s words come to mind: “There are those who look at things as they are, and ask why…I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” This can relate to our personal lives as well as the world in which we live.