by April Watts
Last Saturday, I had the honor of being a guest speaker at the Spring Tea for Hope Community Charter School in Northeast DC. It’s a beautiful, annual event designed to celebrate and inspire young girls (ages 4 to 12) and their moms. The girls were so pretty–decked out in “poofy” dresses and shiny shoes. Giggly. Eyes glimmering with hope for the future. The mothers (and a few dads too) were beaming with the pride of a job well done.
Mrs. Dragon, a dedicated teacher at Community of Hope, asked me to address the topic of “Dream Chasers”. For the first time, I was forced to give thought to an activity that is second nature for me. And on top of that, I was presented the challenge of making my ideas relatable to children. When I expressed my concern to Mrs. Dragon about being able to relate to such a young audience, her response was, “Oh, just make bullet points and you’ll be fine. You’re a natural”. Isn’t it funny how teachers have a way of setting high standards and expecting you to meet them? THAAANKS MRS. DRAGON! *in my little girl voice*
After delivering the speech, I couldn’t get the topic of “Dream Chasers” out of my head. It occurred to me that we adults could also benefit from exploring the subject:
What is a dream?
What is a dream, anyway? A dream is a wish set on fire by passion. In college, I took a course called “Monkeys, Apes, and Humans”. I was blown away to learn there is only 1% difference between the DNA of chimpanzees and humans. What a difference A PERCENT makes! Chimps are an amazing species within their own right. They are intelligent, create their own societies, and are arguably cute. But humans are far more advanced. According to science, man is the most intelligent life form on the planet. We build civilizations. Such is the case for wishes and dreams. A wish is like a chimpanzee—awesome within its own right. But when a wish is coupled with passion (the 1% difference) it becomes another animal entirely—a dream.
How to dream?
Everyone in the world has wishes—something they want to have, do or become—but not everyone has dreams. There are many reasons people don’t dream. Fear… Discouragement by others… But most people don’t dream simply because they don’t know how. They don’t know how, because they haven’t been taught. They haven’t been taught because the people closest to them haven’t been taught themselves or won’t give them permission.
In order to dream, we must explore and discover two things: what is in the world and what is within. I’ve often heard and used the adage, “It’s a small world”. But as it relates to life experiences, the world is a huge place full of unchartered territory. There are places on the map that we never knew existed. There are billions of people we have never met. There are ideas to which we have yet to be exposed and careers we never knew were options. Our wishes are limited if we don’t open ourselves to new experiences and without new experiences, we may NEVER discover our passions.
There are many of us that think we have a dream when in reality we are coveting someone else’s dream. Often times we see someone living their dream and we admire the talent, success and/or fulfillment that individual is experiencing. Because we don’t have a dream of our own we say, “I can do that. I want to do that. Why not me?” We are often unsuccessful when we pursue dreams that are not our own. This can lead to unhappiness, jealousy and a false sense of failure. In order to discover our own dreams we must look within ourselves to discover who we truly are. What is important to us? What are our unique talents and skills? What do we like to do that doesn’t feel like a task or chore?
When we broaden our experiences and discover who we are, our dreams will become crystal clear. Dreams are very special, fragile and deeply personal. We must give ourselves permission to dream and have the gumption to give a good chase. Let that chase be characterized by a good plan, hard work and perseverance and the “Dream Chaser” will eventually become the “Dream Catcher”.