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Anticipation

It was about a year ago now that my husband and I first started talking in earnest about walking in Scotland. He has been serious about it for years. It took hold for me when my dear friend from seminary, Kathy Berry, was here from Richmond to present at our Big Bend Hospice April 2017 Clergy and Congregational Leaders Retreat. Kathy is a chaplain with persons who have memory loss and it was thrilling to have her share her book, When Words Fail, with our Tallahassee faith community. In some casual conversation around our dinner table after the retreat, Bruce talked about walking in Scotland.

Kathy, who was bone-tired from the day, lit up. She said that she had always wanted to do that and before you know it, we were planning a trip. Somehow it had never occurred to me to fashion a vacation with Bill and Kathy, though I love them both dearly. I am thrilled that it is happening now.

I have been thinking about anticipation lately. When I read about the unexpected turnout for the FSU Seminoles Spring Game several weeks ago, I realized that many in our community are anticipating great things from Willie Taggart and the Seminole coaches and players this fall. Though I do not know him and have only read about his life-long love of the Seminoles, much of the excitement that I feel personally has to do with Taggart’s positive regard for the Noles’ heritage and future. There is an air of excitement that we have not felt in a while and it feels good.

While there are many perspectives on the youth of this nation giving voice to their concerns about our national priorities, there is also a sense of anticipation in their energy and focus. There is a sense in which their determination is energizing our political processes and it is exciting to think of a more informed and involved populace.

I was recently at a meeting in Tallahassee where people of various faiths were expressing their views on a topic. After the event I heard from one of the panelists, who was likely to have felt the most “different” in the room, suggesting that he felt hopeful about ways we can build on our commonalities. He anticipates it will require a thoughtful approach, but that together we can transform what is now very divisive into something productive.

Anticipating an event, a culture change, a better future, is a common human experience. And as much as we talk about the importance of living in the precious present, there is also value in looking forward to something that we have not yet lived. According to researchers, our brains are wired to anticipate positive experiences more than negative ones, and we tend to enjoy looking forward more than backward. We can practice healthy anticipation and experience not only the event, change, or future for which we long, but also the hopeful emotions of looking forward to it. Social psychologists, Liz Dunn from the University of British Columbia, and Mike Norton from Harvard Business School, describe a period of anticipation as “free happiness” – it costs no extra to harness the power of anticipation, and yet it can add much to an already-good experience.

Anticipation is a spiritual discipline in some faith traditions. Christians most notably practice anticipation in Advent, a time of preparation and waiting for the incarnation. Quaker Christians practice anticipation with regularity, siting together in silence known as “expectant waiting.” Jewish people anticipate the promised redemption. Muslims are now anticipating the coming of Ramadan, the most holy Islamic holiday. Anticipating that each day is a new beginning with great potential is a practice for some who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. Because it involves matters of faith and hope, it is not surprising that anticipation is spiritual.

I have enjoyed the anticipation of our upcoming vacation to walk in Scotland. The predicted weather is a bit cooler and rainier than I hoped, but nothing will dampen the joy of anticipating this trip and the excitement I have for renewed friendships and new adventures. I pray that you have something positive to anticipate in your own life and that you will not allow the potential negatives to dampen the joy.