Dreams are important.
People are born to dream. We don’t accept that what happens today is how everything will always be and there is nothing we can do about it. Well, maybe some of us do, but everything about human history and human culture tells us that we are creatures who aspire.
Children are not goldfish who relive the same second every day of their lives. They look ahead to the time when they will be taller, faster, older. Over my career, I have talked to kids in every corner of Centre County, from every tax bracket, and if there is one unifying thread in children’s lives, it is their dreams. They all have a “what I want to be when I grow up” story.
Doing this job takes you into the homes and lives of people who are facing tremendous obstacles. Kids with chronic diseases, people who have lost their homes to fires, men who have lost their jobs, women who have lost their husbands. I have never met one person in those circumstances who has given up so completely that they didn’t have a dream for what would come next.
Take Kelsey Burnsworth, for example.
I have written about Kelsey often over the years. She was more than a story.
She was a family friend so dear that it could be hard to tell in pictures if I am looking at her or one of my sisters sometimes. She battled cancer for years before we lost her in 2011, but no matter how many times it attacked, no matter how many times it came back, Kelsey was full of dreams for what came next. She breathed art, lived light and her soul was filled with music. She didn’t want to be a photographer. She knew she was one.
“I have a dream” is a powerful statement. Martin Luther King Jr. obviously knew that when he chose those words. We all have dreams. Not just the ones that drive a billion lottery ticket sales, but the kind that drive record numbers of applications to Penn State year after year. The kind that make a 17-year-old boy sign up to become a man in uniform. The kind that make a couple become a family.
Dreams are the fuel that drive our lives. They may be the crucial, undefinable part of what makes the difference between living and being alive. They are everywhere, waiting to become reality if we can just follow King’s example to take what seems impossible and make it unimaginable that it could be anything other than fact.
And for dreams like that, I am thankful.