A Dream Deferred

I am certainly no Langston Hughes, nor do I presume to offer commentary on his great work. Yet, the title, A Dream Deferred, seemed to fit my thought process for this post. (ref. Langston Hughes “Harlem” 1951) After several conversations with my peers and young people around me, it would appear that the events of our society has put many dreams on hold. People are waiting for the Pandemic to end, for things to get back to normal, for bipartisan politics to take place, for their finances to improve, for a conducive opportunity, and a number of other things. Thus, the dreams are deferred, (postponed, put off for a later time) but for how long?

Can we really afford to put off our hopes and dreams and wait for a better time or season? If COVID 19 has taught me anything, it is not to count the days too far in advance. January 2020 was the beginning of a new year with promises to be better than the year before. We all were marching through the days taking so much for granted, and then March changed everything. No longer could we take our elderly family members for granted, not longer could we take our jobs and income for granted, no longer could we take our health or our friends for granted. Nothing was concrete, everything was elusive. The things we put off until spring, or until a more perfect opportune time never happened, mostly because we were in a “wait and see mode.” Here we are, more than a year later still waiting to see what’s going to happen next.

Don’t get me wrong, I too have some deferred dreams. The books I had hoped would be ready for publication are still on the shelf of my soul. It has not been easy to continue writing under the haze of grief and despair. Even blogging has been a challenge. Yet, those of us who could muster up the courage continued to press on. I am amazed at how many new businesses were launch during this time. I’m in awe of the people who decided that this was the time to achieve their goals in art, music, or literature. These people found hope in the midst of peculiar circumstances. They didn’t give up. They didn’t postpone. They met the challenge head on. They decided that now was as good of a time as any. One person declared, “If COVID takes me out, at least I will have given it my best shot!”

There’s a scripture that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 ESV; some people believe this was Langston Hughes muse) Without a dream or hope, we can become depressed and sick in heart and mind. Mental health disorders have been unmasked during this time of social distancing and sheltering-in. The news stories about new strains of the virus scare us. No one wants to return to wearing masks and distancing ourselves from love ones, but we have a say in how we will respond to the various messages of the airways. We can decide to seek out relationships, to achieve our goals, to be proactive in mental and emotional healing, and to work toward achieving our occupational and or vocational desires. We can be like those entrepreneurs who launched their dreams into reality and experienced life at a new level. We have the ability to change our immediate circumstances by allowing hope to come to the surface of our thoughts and acting on it.

In the last two months, I have been writing more. To my surprise, the more I write, the more I want to write. I started dreaming poems and stories again. I hope to bring two new works to publication this summer. Will I? I don’t know, but I do know I will be giving it everything I’ve got. Writing is a part of who I am. When I defer writing, I am putting my entire being on hold. That is not mentally or emotionally healthy for me. Are you postponing living? Are you putting off being your true authentic self? Have you put yourself (your hopes, goals and dreams) on hold?

For years I have been trying to get my mom to go to the salon with me for a pedicure, manicure, and a facial. For years I have heard her say she wished to have a professional arch her eyebrows and shape her nails, but she would never go. I finally got her to go to the salon on my birthday. She reluctantly got a pedicure with reflexology. Afterwards, she was so elated. She described her experience to me with a big smile on her face. She regretted not doing it before and pledged to go again and get the works. My mom is 89 years old and this was her very first trip to the salon. I tell you this story because your dream deferred doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can be a small thing, a typical thing, a thing that seems ordinary to others, but for you it is a desire that needs to be fulfilled. It can be the thing that makes your “tree of life” grow. It can be the thing that brings you satisfaction and perhaps joy as well.

Are your dreams deferred? Why? Do you have the ability within you or your scope of influence to change it? Is there someone in your life who can help you do whatever needs to be done to get there? I encourage you not to put off for a day which you have yet to see the things you can do today. That’s like trying to spend money you do not have. Cease the day!

I wish you health, wholeness, and joy as you strive to achieve your dreams.

From the publication of his first book in 1926, Langston Hughes was hailed as the poet laureate. This volume is a treasure-an essential collection of the work of a poet whose words have entered our common language. Amazon.com

Imagine Your Story

Imagine Your Story is the title of the summer reading program sponsored by the collaborative library system. Its goal is to improve language and reading skills for our children and to immerse teens and adults into reading for enjoyment and information. I registered for the program, but I also wondered about the rational behind the theme. I searched the internet to no avail. Yet, the theme intrigues me.

We all have a story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end even though we may not know what that end is. I would also venture to say, we have another story as well; the story we wish for, hope for, imagine, the story we planned. By the time I graduated from high school, I had my entire life planned. I was going to live on a farm with horses and large sheep dogs. It was going to be huge and fenced in with a white picket fence. I was going to be a successful author living off the novels I produced, and eventually I would have ten children (six boys and four girls, yes my imagination was that vivid.) Needless to say, that is not my reality. Very little of my imagined story has come to past.

Yet, I have to ask myself, would any part of my future have come true if I had not been able to imagine beyond where I was? Would I have accomplished any of my dreams without being able to imagine something different from what I had or what I had seen? Books played a factor in those dreams. Books opened up worlds to me that reached far beyond the ghettos of Cleveland and the farmlands of Tennessee. Books allowed me to “imagine my story” beyond the boundaries of my existence. Reaching for those dreams moved me from one point of emotional and intellectual geography to another.

Books, and those who were instrumental in my receiving the education from and through books, afforded me the opportunity to pursue a future that no one else in my family had achieved. I became the first woman in my family to attend and graduate from college. I became the first women to attain a Master’s degree. I became the first to have a wedding of huge proportions followed by an actual honeymoon. I moved across the country and actually traveled outside of the country. I learned another language (French) and actual had opportunities to use it. I adopted two children, the sons of my heart, and I actually had some poetry published along the way. These and so much more were things of books that became a part of my actual story as a young woman.

So I ask myself now, am I still imagining my story. Have I stopped dreaming? Are all my accomplishments over, or will I continue to “imagine my story?” What about you? Is there still adventure and mystery in your future?

I am not only imagining my story, but I am imagining the story of my children and grandchildren. I am imagining the story of my mother and my friends. It can’t be helped, because they are all a part of my dreams for the future. We need reform, we need national change in policies concerning law enforcement, we need to find a way to end systemic racism. There is no doubt we must become a more humane society valuing all people and all cultures. I imagine this happening in my lifetime as part of my story.

Perhaps, we have too many people who no longer imagine their stories. Perhaps they can not see the plot developing into something good. Perhaps they can’t see themselves becoming the first to experience or accomplish something in their generation for their children and their families. You see, those things I talked about as my life experiences did not only come out of my imagination and my dreams; it came out of my mother’s and my grandparent’s dreams for me. They imagined my story being better than theirs. They imagined my story making a difference for generations to come. They provided a window through books, through education, through faith, and through their own stories to launch me forward into a new and different life.

When we imagine our stories, we must imagine a bright future for everyone, and contribute to it’s existence by every positive means necessary. We can start by reading multi-cultural books to our children and grandchildren. We can promote reading in our young people from every genre. We can continue to “imagine our story” by writing and sharing our stories in our communities and our schools. Yesterday, I spoke to a friend whose parents are in their 90’s and still self-sufficient. Can you imagine the stories they have to tell!

I leave you with these words from a former teacher: “Wake Up! Its time to Dream!”

There’s hope for childhood. Despite a perfect storm of hostile forces that are robbing children of a healthy childhood, courageous parents and teachers who know what’s best for children are turning the tide. Amazon.com
I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World, Special 75th Anniversary Edition (Martin Luther King, Jr., born January 15, 1929)
“His life informed us. His dream sustained us” -from the Citation of the posthumous award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Amazon.com