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Neuhoff Musings

“The most disappointing day of my life.”

Daniel J. Luby, MA, STL, STD

Date published: October 8, 2020

“The most disappointing day of my life.” This candid assessment of the little boy’s much anticipated “pirate day” with younger cousins is offered without malice, but rather, wistfully, devastatingly. It temporarily crushes his doting grandparents.

OK, he’s nine. At least a third of his life is outside of memory. Remembering that takes some of the sting out of the supervising grownups’ sadness and regret. Their wider perspective reassures them that while it’s a bummer now, it won’t haunt him.

Still, there’s no denying the sense of deflation, and, yes, hurt, that all the effort put into realizing the boy’s imagined perfect day results not in a heartfelt “Thanks !” but a deep sense of loss.  Many hours had been spent in preparation. Costumes, treasure maps, coded messages with invisible ink, secret hiding places had all been lovingly readied. The pinnacle of the day, the eventual discovery of a treasure chest filled with jewels, gold coins, and homemade chocolate fudge, was choreographed to perfection. It was a labor of love.

Turns out, some costumes are more desirable than others and thus cause for envy and rancor. Stage directions and plot lines, agreed to in advance, meet with bafflement or bitter resistance in the moment. Props and settings and action sequences which had seemed solid gold in the planning are proclaimed dumb. Not even the fudge is found up to snuff.  Tempers flare, tears are shed, intemperate words are spoken in unfriendly tones in all directions. It is a day of disappointment all around.

The COVID moment we are living – intensified by all the other crises and conflicts boiling over in our newsfeeds and Zoom meetings and hearts – is thick with disappointment. “Virtual” events of deep import or just passing fun -- graduations, happy hours, reunions, even liturgies – are grindingly not the same. All the upended plans for trips, gatherings, accomplishments, discoveries, etc. settle on us in layers of cynicism, even hopelessness.

Perhaps we can learn something from the one person who isn’t disappointed in the Great Pirate Day Flop  The toddler in the group has no expectations to fall short of. She is simply present in the moment, entirely herself, open to life as it comes rather than demanding it conform to an a priori blueprint.

The Kingdom of God which Jesus proclaims and embodies in his Person not only awaits us in the end. It’s traces are present now in countless ways in daily life, even when hidden by circumstances. 

Beauty, joy, kindness, laughter, welcome, healing  -- all vibrate through the strands of daily life, evident or not. Every day, injustice is called out, wrongs are righted, communion is celebrated, and God’s presence is manifest. Our task is to let go of our detailed expectations of how our lives should be and become mindful of the way they actually are, filled with grace and light even in desolation. May we put down our demands of life occasionally and trust in the constancy and presence of Christ.




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