Dream Big

A friend who was a high school principal for many years tells the story of chatting with one of his honor-roll female students in her senior year.

“If you could have anything you want in life—anything—what would that look like? What’s your biggest dream?”

The girl looked slightly taken aback, as if she had never considered a question of this sort. Then she offered, tentatively:

“Well, I’ve always sort of wanted to get married and live in a double-wide trailer.”

Are you kidding me?

This is the nature of growing up in Appalachia.

No dreams.

I remember when I was in seventh grade; our English teacher assigned us weekly theme papers. One assignment was to write on what we wanted “to be” when we grew up.

I wrote about being a hairdresser.

I’ll never forget my teacher’s comments on the top of the page when he returned my paper: Your choice surprises me.”

I was one of his best students. Loved to write. But it never occurred to me that I could ever use those talents to be more in life.

No one encouraged me to do so.

These are the stories that loomed before me as I read the first chapter of Make the Impossible Possible, by Bill Strickland.

Friends, I’m not ashamed to say that I read this first chapter through streaming tears.

Mr. Strickland is the founder and CEO of Manchester Bidwell, a “community arts-education and job training center in Pittsburgh”. In this first chapter, entitled From the Ghetto to Harvard Business School, he describes the start and the heart of his program.

Mr. Strickland states, “…Manchester Bidwell wasn’t crafted out of corporate vision or business savvy. It happened because a clueless nineteen-year-old trusted his unspoken intuition that the human spirit is remarkably resilient, and that even in damaged and disadvantaged lives, and in circumstances where the odds seem hopelessly stacked against you, there is endless potential waiting to be freed.”

No, I have never lived the defeating life of an inner city youth, but poverty speaks a language that I understand very well.

It is one of making do. Of taking it day by day. Expecting the worst. And never hoping.

Because hope only disappoints.

In this book, Mr. Strickland tells a different story. He tells of giving hope to those who have never possessed it. And the results are astounding.

“More than 90 percent of the kids who come to us get their high school diplomas and 85 percent enroll in college or some other form of higher education…Almost 80 percent of our adult students complete their vocational training and 86 percent of them find employment after graduation…”

He speaks of giving beauty, respect, trust…to a population of forgotten people who have never had these things.

Friends, it has made a difference to many. Mr. Strickland even makes the bold statement that his mission is “to turn people’s lives around”.

And he is doing it.

In writing Making the Impossible Possible, Strickland states that his purpose it to reveal to others that “all of us have the potential to make our dreams come true, and that one of the greatest obstacles blocking us from realizing that potential is that we believe, or are told, the things we want most passionately are impractical, unrealistic, or somehow beyond our reach.”

Friends, I will turn 40 years old next week and I am still learning that it is okay to dream.

Perhaps we all are.

I’m looking forward to reading more of what this book has to say. Join me and the Higher Calling Book club every Monday for further discussions.

I am excited to be participating in a book club every Monday, through the Higher Calling blogs. I recently joined the Higher Calling online community and have been overwhelmed by the talent I’ve found there. So many wonderful poets and writers all in one place! If you’ve visited my friend L.L. Barkat over at Seedlings in Stone, you will have an idea of the quality of writing at Higher Calling. Stop by and give them a read, and join up if you like what you see!

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  1. says

    Laura! This was quite touching… to see how the chapter resonated with you personally. I guess I took a similar thing away, from all the things one could have taken. I’ve always had a hard time embracing the things that are my center, my dreams, as if I don’t deserve such joy.

    And High Calling is a great place. I’m so glad you’ve become part of the community! : )

  2. says

    I come from the “other side” of the “tracks” that you mention here.

    What amazes me about the human experience is this. At some point, the world will teach us all that hope (and, oh, yes. THE Hope) is futile. a waste of effort. waste of breath.

    I actually learned that I could be anything I wanted to be if I did AB and C. I learned that the world could be my oyster. I learned to hope for it all.

    Interestingly enough: “It all” still leaves us without Hope. The successes of the world, as I know you know… leave so much more to be desired. When have we gotten to the top anyway? There always seems to be another notch out there.

    He is the Only thing worth walking toward.

    It is okay to dream. We can do anything through Christ.

    And, it is still okay when your dreams crushed. Because our Hope is in Him.

  3. says

    I grew up rather “middle of the road” neither rich nor struggling. My dreams got lost in “reality” thinking. If it wasn’t pratical, it wasn’t reality. Dreams, lofty ones, were impractical and quickly pushed aside.

    I love stories where people are able to grow beyond the boundaries. It is beautiful that often it is because one person encouraged the dream and created a place for hope to grow.


  4. says

    Wow, Laura…your words and your thoughts on this just gripped my heart. When you said “It is one of making do. Of taking it day by day. Expecting the worst. And never hoping. Because hope only disappoints.” it just resonated with me, it’s so true! Not all poverty is found in an inner city ghetto. It comes in all varieties and exists in all places. This is a beautiful post that really touches on the heart of the matter, thank you for being willing to share it and for leading in the discussion of the book!

  5. says

    I think I’ve lost a bit of my dreaming capacity. I’m not sure I believe you can be anything you want to be. Indeed, I can move toward it, but I’m just not sure my “contentment” was meant to breathe there. I’ve got to find it here, in the now … not in some “yet to be grasped” future. For me, at least, it has set up a dangerous precedent, of always striving, yet never quite becoming and walking in the reality of my dreaming.

    I think part of dreaming big is actually believing big, and therein lies my struggle.

    I know. A bit of a downer. That being said, I’m believing and dreaming big for heaven. Jesus is my hope. And when I get there, I will be all that I have ever imagined I could be…and more.


  6. says

    Hi Laura, thanks for stopping by and checking in on me. I hope you’re feeling better now! My break was not intended; just too much on in the ‘real’ world and not enough inspiration flowing to post. I love this post, especially where you’ve quoted, “all of us have the potential to make our dreams come true, and that one of the greatest obstacles blocking us from realizing that potential is that we believe, or are told, the things we want most passionately are impractical, unrealistic, or somehow beyond our reach.” I’m planning on posting my latest Siesta Scripture Verse today and it’s along the same lines in that we shouldn’t let what man says affect our lives. I turn 40 next year but I still have big dreams for me and my girlie, and I pray, and hope, that I can achieve them. xo

  7. says

    I came from a poverty home as well, with little to no encouragement to what I could be, to dream big. And at 40 plus, I’m here to tell you that my God dreams BIG dreams. He encourages me and I feel extremly blessed that He blessed me with a spouse that allows me to step into those BIG dreams.

    Don’t sell yourself short Girlfriend!!!!

    Love ya

  8. says

    AT FIRST, I burst into laughter at the doublewide trailer comment. I mean …. nearly hurt myself. I kept thinkin… Ohmygosh… they must live in our neck of the woods. heeheehaaahaahoohoooo
    But as I read on… it broke my heart! Funny too because I have been telling one of our sons that he needs a dream*
    Think I’m going to pick up that book!
    Thanks so much….
    Ya know, when I was in high school, I wanted to be a veterinarian. A relative who was a guidance counselor in a big city told me: “You could NEVER be a veterinarian… your grades aren’t good enough.” 🙁 I was shot down, and after that… I never even tried.
    There sure is power in our words. We either build people up, or tear them down.
    Thanks for sharing this post. I’m going to go check out that book, and thee other info too!

  9. says

    Thanks so much for your sweet words of encouragement to me on my blog. It has been a tough time… and the pain has been/is great, but God is GREATER!

    When I first read our last chapter for this week, I was finding the enemy twisting it, and I was feeling condemned. I re-read it tonight after what God did for me on Sunday, and saw it in a whole new light. God is so good, and He taught me, yet again, to LIFT HIM UP!
    I had to get my post up tonight, as I didn’t know when I would…
    and then wanted to stop by here, and thank you.
    Love you my friend, (and would love the hug too!!!) 🙂 Thanks so much for praying!

  10. says

    To dream big! I wonder if my place in the “middle” is more a testimony to not reaching high enough. To being content. To my self-defeating thoughts. To fear of failure.
    At this point in my life I’m trying to dream big with God. What does He want me to do. I’m reading the classic My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers and he’s caused me to totally reevaluate what it means to dream big.

    Love your poetry. You inspire me to take a stab writing a poem or two.


  11. says

    I love stories of dreams coming true but also have a hard time embracing the possibility for myself. This was a post that gives me something to think about and perhaps yet another book to read.

    Happy birthday!

  12. says

    I understand! I just realized this myself (a few years later than I should have). I was looking back at my life putting together the pieces and figuring out why I am *here* doing what I do, being who I am and it just hit me…because I never thought to be more. I mean, I knew I COULD be but it wasn’t expected or encouraged. I just fell into the path (which also turned out to be a difficult one). Funny thing is, where I come from I’m the one that “made it”. ???
    This will impact the way I raise my children!
    Anyway…just wanted to say ‘I get it’.

  13. says

    I too failed to dream very big…I would tell my mother things…and she would say-“What’s the reality?” and “How is this going to happen?” I suppose she was just trying to get me to think outside of the box and to find out how to make those dreams come true.

    I did not finish college…married my high school sweet heart…and “lucked-up” into my job. I suppose I just had God on my side.

    I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, yes-we do have to travel anywhere from 30 min to an hour to see a movie, to go bowling, or to get a decent dinner, but I also know that if I forget to lock my door to my home…or even leave it standing wide-open that nothing is going to be bothered…I may even have a neighbor who would close the door for me.

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