WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Expect Nothing

By Robin Tanner

“Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.”
—Alice Walker

A close-up of a yellow stripe painted on rough asphalt. In the yellow stripe is embedded a heart-shaped stone.

I had finally begun to relax—a bit. We were en route to Pennsylvania. My friend, a formal part of our “framily,” was visiting. We decided a visit to a crayon factory was the perfect winter outing for toddlers. The day was clear and crisp with typical bumper-to-bumper traffic for northern Jersey.

I adjusted the radio station when my eyes caught the approaching car in my rearview mirror — too close to my bumper.

I had to hit the brakes because the cars were slowing down. We stopped. The car behind edged closer to my bumper.

“Seriously!” (although we know I said more than this word)

My friend was jarred into a wakeful state.

I had become accustomed to Jersey drivers: the honking, occasional yelling and sometimes a gesture or two. At first, it was a shock from North Carolina drivers who refused to blow a horn when they ought to blow it; but good grief, the minivan behind me could hold a deck of cards to my bumper.

Then, the honking started.

“Okay, okay, just pass me,” I shouted as my son echoed, “Otay, otay” from the backseat as if negotiating a cookie swap with his sibling.

The navy minivan moved between lanes, jockeying toward the lane beside me as traffic started moving again. So, now they were going to pass me on the right. Whatever. The minivan approached. I could see the man had rolled down the window on the driver’s side and his arm was already out of the window.

I braced myself for a gesture.

As the car passed, he made a peace sign and shouted “Justice!” The man was smiling broadly. I raised my eyebrows in complete confusion. What the heck?

It took my friend from the congenial state of North Carolina to remind me that I was driving my wife’s car with a Black Lives Matter sticker.

Sometimes, people surprise you. Sometimes, our expectations are wholly insufficient.

Beloved, open my heart—especially in the midst of fatigue and despair—to experience the world anew. Honking as celebratory. Justice as joyful. In each day, may I invite the surprise of being human together into my life.

About the Author

Robin Tanner

Robin Tanner is a Unitarian Universalist minister, poet, and activist who serves as the Minister of Worship and Outreach at Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, New Jersey.


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