Never underestimate the power of a dream. Seeds are sown and dreams grown in the moments that seem the most mundane. We don’t always choose what we remember or what becomes important or what shapes us as people. Random moments are frozen like black and white stills and tilled deep into memory. And then they become part of who we are.
A moment: It is August of 1963 in Williamsburg, Virginia. I am eight years old and I am getting ready to start the third grade. We have already made the trip to Casey’s department store and my closet smells like brand new shoes. My parents are watching something on television. First one, then the other, tells me to sit down and watch with them. I sit, but I am restless. The black and white screen flickers news-like seriousness. I am thinking about riding my bike to the pool for a last chance to earn the red ankle tag that will allow me to swim in the deep end even when my parents aren’t there.
I didn’t want to watch the news. I wasn’t interested in current events. And I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on in the world around me. And yet, it would be a moment that that would shape my life.
I didn’t know the man who was giving the speech, but he said he had four little children… just like our family. The man had a dream and my parents had tears in their eyes. The moment was important enough that they wanted me to be a part of it. They wanted the dream to be a part of me. School started and I went back to my all-white school. The speech that had been so important to my parents was never mentioned. Silence.
This past Friday (Lee Jackson Day in Virginia) I taught my third graders about the man with the dream. They wanted to know if I was living back then (Yes). They wanted to know if Room 204 had been white or black during segregation (White).
This dream cannot be taught with silence. Silence is an easy consort to idle hatred and indifference — the very enemies of the dream. This dream can only be taught with conversation. A girl wrote me a note after the conversation: “Dream work is team work.” I love that and it’s true.
I don’t know if my students will remember a word of what I taught them on Friday. I hope they will remember that they had a teacher who knew it was important to talk about the man with the dream. What I really want them to know is this: Bold and courageous love is the dream. Bold and courageous love is the message. Bold and courageous love made a difference. Bold and courageous love was the man: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.