This past summer we visited Flannery O’Connor’s home at Andalusia Farms outside of Milledgeville, Georgia. It was my kind of place – her mother’s old dairy barn, Flannery’s peacock coop, a small frame house where their caretakers lived, and a bigger white farmhouse with a screened-in front porch that overlooked the pine tree – lined road leading up to the farm from the highway. Rural, agrarian, somewhat secluded.
The author and her mother lived there together until Flannery died at the age of thirty-nine from lupus. The illness limited her activities and apparently a highlight of her last years was sitting on the front porch and visiting with relatives and friends who came from near and far to entertain and be entertained. On one of these occasions several people were chatting while they sat in the rocking chairs on the porch and a cousin was relaying a particularly boring story that did not entertain Flannery.
She leaned over to the person sitting next to her and said in a voice loud enough for everyone on the porch to hear, “She’s just not what we’d hoped she would be.”
I have laughed and laughed and laughed again when I think of her saying that in that setting…so much that Teresa and I will look at each other sometimes and mouth “she’s just not what we’d hoped she would be.” We are easily amused with our own inside jokes.
Actually, though, I believe there’s more truth than poetry in the remark. Disappointment is a universal experience that strikes when we least expect it and lingers longer than we’d like for it to. When it comes from a person, it invariably comes from a person we love and trust or at least one we admire. When it comes from a place, politics, organized religion and/or the weather are usually involved; and when it comes from a football team, losing is the culprit.
Here’s my remedy for disappointments: lower your expectations. Forget lofty idol worshipping – it didn’t work well for the followers of Baal in the Old Testament and it’s likely to run into trouble with people we put on pedestals today. Pedestals topple like the walls of Jericho with just as much noise and confusion and pain and suffering, so recognize none of us live in a glass house and can afford to cast the first stone. If a particular pedestal falls in your life, add a dash of forgiveness…seventy times seven is about right. Where little has been forgiven, little love is shown. The Bible tells me so.
Politics and organized religion tend to merge in disappointing convergence with resulting noise and confusion and pain and suffering and the paving of Paradise to make it a church parking lot. Leave those to the weather.
Finally, as for football teams, losing occurs in the midst of much noise and confusion and pain and suffering but don’t lower your expectations. Simply fire the coach.
He’s probably not what we’d hoped he would be.