Last January 14, 2016, President Mallard mailed me a letter concerning my sabbatical proposal. “As President of Reinhardt University, I am pleased to approve your application.” Those words shaped my next year. They shaped my actions; they shaped my dreams. The words created an anticipating spirit.
The dictionary defines anticipate as “regard as probable; expect or predict.” For my sabbatical, it was up to me to create what to expect or predict. I realized that I had choices. I didn’t want to dread my travel or to build false hopes for the future. Part of avoiding dread or false hopes was to plan.
My anticipating involved preparing, preparing, and more preparing. Since my proposal listed places and people that I would visit, I needed to confirm those visits. I anxiously waited until I received the good news. My specific requests to Taiwan’s Fo Guang Shan monastery, Kolkata’s Ramakrishna Institute of Culture, and Jerusalem’s Tantur Ecumenical Institute were accepted. With these as foundational sites, I dreamed of other locations outside those countries as well as within those countries. The logistical task mushroomed!
I’ve realized that anticipating is like a rolling police escort on I-75. The police are constantly blocking a ramp and then speeding ahead to block another ramp. My anticipating never reached a complete end; rather, each step led to other possibilities, other avenues to explore.
My preparing led me to act. I became a regular at Panera and Starbucks talking with new and old friends about their international visits and about my topic of moral responsibility. Luma Mufleh of Clarkston’s Fugees gave me some references. Brother Shankara of the Vedanta Society insisted that I should visit the Ramakrishna’s work with children; Rabbi Rosenthal of Ahavath Achim Synagogue suggested a conservative Jerusalem Yeshiva. Since I love photography, I took a digital art class with Jym Davis. Of course, with money tight, I began to compile a list of inexpensive but safe lodging. My anticipating built upon these friendships and upon the trust and excitement these people I met informally shared with me about their experiences. While preparing is a part of anticipating, I’ll have to avoid allowing my desire to secure the trip to overwhelm my ability to stay flexible.
Others who are making my dreams possible may not have the means or privilege to do what I am doing. The curbside bag handlers at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, the front desk staff at Shanghai’s Qube Hotel (my first night hotel) and the taxi driver I’ll use in Shanghai don’t. I am grateful that I have the financial and the emotional means to plan and execute this trip.
I recognize that things could go less than perfectly. Avoiding the touts (scammers) at the Delhi train station will be a challenge. I know that walking the Camino will present challenges similar to the blisters I got walking the final 100 km two years ago when I was not yet Medicare eligible. Even though certain events will disrupt my expectations, I can’t and won’t let these events overpower the anticipation of learning and growing daily. I’ll adjust.
A challenge to anticipating is how to allow space for uncertainty. In that uncertainty, I can become attentive to the present, to my immediate surroundings. Who am I talking to now? Where am I walking now? I hope that I’ll be able to shift from the future that is expected or probable to the present which is surprising. In twelve hours I’ll begin to have my chance!