“all that we can do”

In a meeting today I was told repeatedly by a representative from another office on campus that they would “do all that we can do” to help us. This is wonderful. Except that she meant it exactly as she said it. “All that we can do” could mean that such a group will do everything in their capacity to help. But what if their capacity really isn’t so much?

“We’ll do all that we are really able to do, but no more,” is another way of saying this.

Or, “We’ll do just as much as we have ever done in the past,” is another way, albeit less inspiring, they could have expressed their work ethic.

Perhaps, “We are prepared to do only the things that we are sure we can do, like input phrases into a search engine and let you know what comes out; or, you could do this yourself, if you’d like.”

But mostly what they meant to say was, “We’ve only done this much in the past, and we don’t want to learn to do it any other way, and we’ll continue to do just as much as we’ve gotten away with before because no one (including you) is going to change the way we do the things we do to help you . . . We’ll do all that we can do.”

Tonight I started reading The Phantom Tollbooth to the girls, because none of us had ever read it and it was there on the shelf. Milo, the main character, finds himself in the second chapter already arriving at a place called “Expectations.” And, as the story sets things up, he’s about to go beyond this place. I wish others, in real life, could sometimes be so bold.

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