a year ago, i couldn’t imagine being so bold as to put any words here other than the words of the man to whom this day belongs, martin luther king jr. and so, i excerpted from the speech that moves me to shivers down the spine, and tears down my cheeks. i put a spool of words from the “i have a dream speech” right out on the table, and i let that speak for the day.
well, this year, thinking about this day, i am thinking that we must all be bold–especially when it comes to dreams.
if we don’t reach deep down inside, scout around for that same bold seed, put voice to it, get up and say it out loud, put breath to it, after all, well then, what’s the point in only listening to someone else’s dream.
that dream will not just leap up off the couch, start dancing, doing its thing without some muscle, without us adding to the voices rising, up over the mountaintop, down into the valley on the other side, down to where the shadows fall today. and tomorrow and the morrow after that. if we don’t too dare to be so bold as to raise our hand, say, hmm, i too am dreaming.
a long long time ago now i had a real live, wide-awake dream. a dream i’ve mentioned here, maybe once. but maybe it got lost along the way. today seems a fine day for shaking off the cobwebs of the story of that dream, re-telling it, in case maybe you or you have had a dream, all your own as well.
my dream was in the upstairs chapel of a nunnery, far far away. out where hills rolled and corn reached toward the sky. i was only there for the weekend, for what’s called a silent retreat. which means i ate, i drank, i walked, i prayed in utter, total wordlessness. at least no words that you could hear. there were plenty inside, believe me.
it was a friday night, and i had eaten in silence, tucked my things beneath the hard slab that was serving as my bed. i tiptoed up to the chapel and there i knelt. maybe it was all the silence, or maybe it was something else. but as i knelt and prayed, staring at the crucifix, staring at the long muscled legs of jesus on the cross, fixing on the nail holes in his palms, taking in the beautiful sorrow, and the peacefulness on his handsome jewish face, i saw the start of what turned out to be an endless kodak slide show of faces changing. i saw old faces, white faces, black faces, brown faces, sallow faces, children. i saw a native american, i saw an asian man, an old one. i saw wrinkles, i saw softness. i saw eyes and eyes and eyes. i was, of course, wiping tears from my own eyes, and cheeks, and chin. i can’t imagine seeing such a sight and not being wholly deeply moved. the tears, the transcendence deep inside, is all what comes when you feel, sometimes, as if a hand from heaven has just reached down and tapped you, unwieldingly, on the heart.
i knelt. i squeezed my eyes, then slowly peeked them open, to see if maybe this was all a trick that would just pouf away as fast as it had come. i turned, looked back, and still the faces changed.
i got the message pure and wholly: look for, find, the face of God in every one you meet.
the clincher to this dreamy story is the next afternoon, when i returned, took a seat–near the back, i tell you–in the bigger downstairs chapel. i bravely–through spread fingers–shyly–just a little bit afraid, i tell you–raised my eyes again to the face of jesus on the cross. at first, nothing. phew. safe. that was rather much to ride again. but then, as i softly sank into prayer, i swear to God i saw a smile wash across the face of that there jesus.
now you can hang me up now, press the button and click away. or you can read along, think, like i do, hmm, heaven even comes to ordinary folk. i’m no saint (ask my mother), but i am now among the ones who’ve had a dream. who carry it with us wherever we go from that day forth.
i carried it with me when i criss-crossed this country, once, looking for the faces of those who were poor, were hungry. i carried it, day in and day out, as i poked around the big city where i live and work, where i collected stories of the neediest of needy folk. walked into apartments way up high in dingy highrises and barely made it out alive of one not-so-friendly two-flat where there hadn’t been a speck of heat in weeks, and where someone who huddled there made it abruptly very clear that i was not welcome there.
i carry it, oh boy do i, now, where i live in a place where ironically it’s harder because no one on the surface looks so needy. everyone is cleaned, is polished. children carry ipods. play games on cell phones while they wait for lessons that cost, for half an hour, what some families pay all week for groceries.
the only thing to do if we’ve lived a dream is to wake up every morning and tuck it in our pocket, take it where we go. try every day, to not give up. to not let the phone call go unmade, or the unkind word go uncorrected.
it is the pulse beat really of our every day. it is the undying belief that it is here, at our kitchen tables, that the dream puts on its clothes. leaves behind the wisps of mental images, takes on matter in our every blessed hour.
it is in where we choose to send our children out to play. it is what we cook, and who we choose to feed. it is in the people we invite into our homes, the stories we ask them to tell, so our children can listen, can soak up sparks of wisdom that come from far beyond the walls of our small houses. it is how we look into the eye of the guy behind the gas pump. and where we get our hands dirty. it is in the getting up on sunday morning, and going out to someplace where the lessons come from wiser teachers, instead of staying huddled ‘round the table, sipping cocoa, keeping watch of birds.
it is, day in and day out, saying to yourself: i have a dream. i see a world other than the one before me. i believe it can be changed. it starts, right now, with my next whole breath.
someone else once had a dream. his name was martin. and there is work, still, to be done. he’s no longer here. he needs us to boldly dream in the places where he dreamed.
do you have a dream? how do you make it come to life? some of you, i know, are the very ones who inspire the dreams i set before my children. please, share the outlines of your visions. and bless you all for being filled with dream.