Investment of expectation

November 12, 2005 at 11:07 pm Leave a comment

One of my history professors asked me last month if I had any interest in doing a directed study with him next semester. I was ecstatic for a week and a half after he suggested the idea. (The ecstasy was promptly followed by a severe bout of nervousness about what I had agreed to. But anyway…)

It’s not as much that I was thrilled about the course work. This professor’s specialty is medieval Europe, and I’d never thought of medieval Europe as something I was particularly interested in. For that reason, if it had been up to me to choose a faculty member with whom to do a directed study, it simply would never have occurred to me to ask this professor.

But that’s not the point. The point is I didn’t have to ask him. He singled me out and asked me. And that made all the difference in the world.

I know, getting invited to do a directed study probably seems like a silly thing to get excited about. After all, it’s just more class work, and who wants that?

But it was important to me because it meant someone thought I was worth investing in. This professor apparently supposes (however irrationally!) that he will get a good return from the time he puts into me. There’s nothing quite like that for a confidence builder.

And it’s not just the expression of confidence in me that makes his gesture significant. It’s that I now have someone’s expectations to live up to. I am no longer just one person in a class of twenty-two. On the contrary, I have been specifically singled out to do something significant.

Because I know someone is investing uniquely in me, I sense the obligation to make sure he gets a good return on his investment. I might have floundered if I were left on my own, but because I am aware of my professor’s expectancy, I find it hard not to sit a little straighter, study the readings a little more diligently, rise to a little higher level.

Mentoring is powerful that way.

It occurs to me that professors are not the only ones with this power. I have it too. And in fact, because of the investment that has been made in me, I am feeling a distinct obligation to invest in others in return.

After all, I look around me and see all sorts of young faces in my sphere of influence, each one representing a floundering soul. Their faces tell the story of lives without expectations, of futures without prospect of greatness. They might have those who try to love them, in a distorted sort of way, but I doubt they have ever been individually entrusted with expectation.

But does it have to remain that way? I don’t think so. In the same way someone has done it for me, I, in turn, have the opportunity to single out someone else for something significant.

This is, perhaps, a simplistic view of the potential for life transformation. Then again, I personally know the effect of an investment of expectation.


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profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

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