The Heresy of Low Expectations

The Heresy of Low Expectations

A few years ago I was at a softball tourna­­ment with one of my daughters. While there I saw a sign recruiting girls for a new travel-ball team. The organizers made clear that girls who joined this team would be making a major commitment: many practices, a difficult playing schedule, and demanding coaches. But the payoff was also evident: if you joined this team, it was promised, you would become a much better softball player.

Since we were out of town for this tournament, the next day we attended Mass at the closest parish to the fields. Leaving the church, I saw a sign recruiting young people to become altar servers. The organizers made clear that no real commitment was needed: they would hold few, practices and would ask little of the young people—just be at Mass once or twice a month.

The difference between the two signs could not be more obvious. In the first, the organizers took their activity (playing softball) seriously and demanded all participants to do the same. In the second, the organizers treated their activity (altar serving) as a burden that they hoped a few people would accept if they could find the time. The expectations of the first group were high; the second, low.

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