It is a scene familiar to most movie aficionados from the perennial favourite, The Wizard of Oz. The four friends return to the Wizard’s castle carrying the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. When they enter his chamber, the Wizard’s horrifying image bellows, “Can I believe my eyes? Why have you come back?” Meek little Dorothy leads the company and politely replies, “Please, sir. We’ve done what you told us. We’ve brought you the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. We melted her. So we’d like you to keep your promise to us – if you please, sir.” But the Wizard is reluctant, shooing them away. “I’ll have to give the matter a little thought. Go away and come back tomorrow!” This unexpected response from the Wizard changes Dorothy’s tone dramatically, and she is joined by the others in confronting the Wizard for not holding up his end of the bargain.

What did Dorothy and her friends the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion expect? Oz the Magnificent had promised them he would grant their requests, but not until they had completed a very special work. “You must prove yourselves worthy by performing a very small task. Bring me the broomstick of the Witch of the West.” This terrifying mission was entered into with fear and trembling by all, and was successfully completed as the wicked witch melted away with a puff of green smoke. So the four friends had every confidence their requests would now be fulfilled as they had completed their assignment.

Now the Wizard seemed to be reneging on his bargain. This called into question his very character and ability. “If you were really great and powerful, you’d keep your promises,” the Scarecrow complains. As this discourse is taking place, Dorothy’s curious little dog Toto is investigating the curtain in the corner. He draws it back to reveal the real Wizard, who utters the now immortal movie line, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” As the four friends confront the impostor, they remind him of his promise. He then seeks to fulfill his pledge to each one in a way none expected but each comes to delight in. All, that is, except Dorothy, who believes she is stuck in Oz. He assures her he can fly her back to Kansas via his hot-air balloon. When even that fails, she is reminded by Glinda the Good Witch that she simply has to click the ruby slippers three times and invoke the famous line, “There’s no place like home.” Finally, their expectations have been all been met.

What do you expect? That is one of most important questions you can ask in your life. You may not be on a journey through Oz, but you are likely trying to tread safely through the wilderness of life in the twenty-first century. That journey is one filled with expectations. What are they? Your expectations of yourself, of others, and of the course of your life. The expectations others have of you. Their expectations of how their life is to unfold. Life is a complex panorama of expectations which overlap and unfold in various ways day by day. How we navigate the course of our life has much to do with how effectively and successfully we manage those expectations.

Daily, we return home from our jobs or classrooms or activities with expectations pressing in on us, only to be faced with further expectations of family, of sports teams, in our social clubs, at our place of worship, or in our neighbourhood groups. We may try to avoid them, or ignore them, or even deny them. But expectations are inevitable. They comprise the very fabric of life. They are part of every relationship. They are part of our daily agenda. So let’s get a handle on how to manage our expectations. How? By learning to ask a simple question: “What Do You Expect?”

Introduction from the book:
What Do You Expect?
By Brian Reynolds