What the Stars and the Snow Have Taught Us
A Dream Deferred
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Life has its ways of breaking us down, of breaking us apart, of breaking our hearts. Over the course of our lifetimes, if we’ve had a lot of brokenness, we might begin to shy away from the things that inspire us, from the dreams that give us reason to strive and to hope – not wanting to risk so much, after having gotten hurt so much before. Whether it’s relationships that didn’t work or jobs that have been lost or opportunities denied, when brokenness continues to add up it tends to lessen our desires to reach out, to take risks and to pursue our dreams and passions. We become cynical, jaded, and we begin to pull in, insulating ourselves from more potential brokenness and disappointment. We too often defer – our dreams, our joy, our wonder – and we lose a sense of enthusiasm and excitement for our lives.
And that’s too bad.
Yes. It takes some work, sometimes, hard work, and some risk, sometimes scary risk. But the work and the risk are often worth it to regain our sense of wonder and our joy and our dreams again.
It is so important to be around people who can remind of that, who can show us that, who can – by their very being – infuse us with possibility and promise again.
I (Tom) remember the very night when I was outside with my two-year old son Luke and he looked up at the sky and for the first time noticed the stars twinkling and shining above. I remember vividly how he was overwhelmed with what he saw, how in his still developing communication skills I could clearly understand what he said,
Wow! Look at that, Daddy.
His discovery of the splendor of the nighttime sky was a reminder to me of my own habit of taking the beauty around us for granted. It’s so easy to get caught up in our everyday responsibilities and routines that we fail to notice the miracles of creation around us. It took a child’s discovery to call me back to greater awareness that any of my frustrations or disappointments, my brokenness, is vastly insignificant in the scheme of the heavens’ glory and infinity. When I look up to them I am inspired to think bigger and deeper and to be more grateful. And in that, their light pierces any of my darkness and it begins to drive my doubts and fears away.
I (Michael) was co-leading a week-long seminar for people living with cancer, at a retreat center in U.S. northeast. It was January and it was cold. One of the participants was a man in his mid-40’s, who had been living in Florida for most of his life. He wasn’t used to the cold and hadn’t seen snow since he was a child. His body was weak and frail as he struggled with the disease that was doing its best to overpower it. But one morning, after a night of significant snowfall, this man resolved that it was time to embrace and enjoy the snow. So, with great help getting down and great help getting back up, he lay in the snow, spreading his arms and legs to make a snow angel. The delight on his face said it all. With tears in our eyes and unrestrained grins on our faces we watched him become a child again, transported back to a time when illness had not touched him, when life was infinitely simpler, when it wasn’t yet threatened by weakness and increasing disability. I learned from him, in his vast brokenness, to appreciate, too, the joy that could be possible even in darkness and pain. His wonder, his simple, immediate dream to lie in the newly fallen snow, called me back from my tendency to allow certain difficult circumstances to take on a life of their own and rob me of the joy of the moment and the wonder of life right now. His snow angel was a gift to me and to each of us who saw it.
We all need to invite wonder and joy back into our lives. It is those gifts that allow us dream, to think beyond ourselves, to think bigger and better and greater. It is wonder and joy that help us transcend our disappointments and our frustrations. It is wonder and joy that help to mend our brokenness and bring us the healing we need. They are gifts that inspire us to dream again, that enable dreams deferred to become dreams pursued again.
How do you find wonder and joy again when they have too often been pushed aside? How have you found the gift of dreaming dreams again and of seeing visions of life’s possibilities again so that they are no longer pushed aside?