I Dreamed a Dream … Once.
Last week my wife asked me what my dream was.
The query came after one of our pastors at our church gave a sermon in which he asked that very question of the congregation. And much to my wife’s surprise I told her I really didn’t have one, at least not any more.
And after discussing it again last night it has occurred to me that at some point along the way, I lost whatever dreams I had.
A phrase from the Disney movie ‘Hercules’ kept coming to mind, one from Danny DeVito’s character Philoctetes who said, “Ah, but dreams are for rookies, kid. A guy can only take so much disappointment.”
And I think that’s where I lost it.
See, I had dreams as a kid. It started with wanting to be captain of the Enterprise, soaring through space and exploring new worlds. As I got older being a ballplayer was the goal, and later it was following in the footsteps of Indiana Jones and becoming an archaeologist.
I trained to go into marketing in college, but ended up as a sports editor for my hometown newspaper. An incredibly rewarding job that was a lot of fun but paid little. During that time I was exposed to sports broadcasting, and becoming the next Vin Scully was something I wanted to do. Heck, I even tossed around the idea of becoming an umpire in Major League Baseball for a while.
But on the whole, I have never really had that one big dream. With all of the other ones something always got in the way. Something or someone diverted the path and sent me off into a tangent that just didn’t allow for the things I wanted to do. And at age 48, I’m not exactly in a place, or physical state, to go back and try and make one of them happen.
In 1990 Jim Beleushi and Michael Caine starred in a movie called ‘Mr. Destiny’, in which Beleushi’s character has a middle management job at a large sporting goods company with a so-so income, problems at home and the typical day-to-day stuff that we all wish would just go away. Caine’s character allows Beleushi to change one moment in his past – to hit the home run in a big game as a kid – and get a glimpse of how his life would be. It’s a modern day version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, another movie which I really love.
So as I thought about this last night it occurred to me that I could have made some different decisions down the road that I have traveled. That I could have pushed some people and things out of the way to do what I had wanted, to pursue one of those dreams.
About six years ago I traveled a path I really wanted no part of. One that caused me such pain and anguish that I literally thought I was going to die. I know that it was nothing compared to what some folks have gone through, but for someone like me – who’d damn near had everything handed to me on a silver platter to that point – it was excruciating.
My first wife had left me, taking my son Zach with her. I was living alone in a two-bedroom apartment having just lost my job and my mother having died a few months before. I was running out of money, getting to see my son rarely and slipping into a depression the depths of which I had never known. It was like the world was crushing in around me and no one cared. The people at my church had literally forgotten I existed, save two guys who called once or twice a week to check on me.
But God put some very unexpected people in my life to remind me of my faith, to give me an answer when I was would cry out to God at night, “Why is this happening?! Why are You doing this to me?!”
They were self-declared pagans. People who didn’t believe in God and who did believe that living in a very carnal way was the best way to experience life. But oddly enough, they knew the Bible and its teachings better than most Christians I knew back then and God used them and their knowledge to speak to me nightly via emails, text messages and long distance phone calls to people I had never actually met.
It was some six months later when I ended up back in my home town working for the newspaper I had been sports editor at, getting paid less than before and barely making enough to pay the rent and keep food on the table. And it was one seemingly meaningless assignment that let me know the path I had traveled meant more than I had ever known.
I was sent out to cover a ‘Happy Birthday Jesus’ parade that a local home daycare had planned. The owner had called me as we had been classmates together in high school and she felt I might be able to get a picture or two in the paper for her. When I arrived one of the parents was there, a lady named Mary. We kept looking over each other trying to remember where we knew each other from and finally recalled that she had been in advertising at the paper when I was there during my first stint. We exchanged a few recollections, I took my pictures and was on my way.
A few hours after leaving I got a phone call from Mary. She said that she had felt like God was putting a Scripture on her heart to share with me and that she had to do it. She said, “I just really feel like God is telling me that you need Jeremiah 29:11 right now. That you need to know that He has a plan for you for good and not for evil. That things are going to get better.”
Hearing her say that hit me like a thunderbolt and I started tearing up at my desk. She went on to say that when we had worked together years earlier, that she and her husband had considered me a role model for how I walked out my faith at work. I had never had anyone tell me that and it started me crying even more.
Over the years I’ve had other people tell me how I’ve affected their lives, either through my coaching one of their teams or during times when I was a youth group counselor. Like ol’ George Bailey, I never really knew the impact I had had on others. I didn’t think what I had been doing really mattered all that much.
So last night as I looked at some of those dreams, I wondered again what would it have been like had I chosen to be a broadcaster or an archaeologist or an umpire. I realized it would have been pretty dreadful because I would not have my son Zach, I would have the incredible church family I do now and I would never have met the most perfect women in the world for me in my wife Dee. Life for me, or them, just wouldn’t be the same.
And so I’ve come to realize that while the path I’m one my not seem like the one I would have chosen, but it is certainly the one that God has chosen. I could be in a cushy press box or a digging through ruins in some middle eastern dessert, but I wouldn’t be doing whatever it is God wants me to be doing right now. Like Esther from the Bible book of the same name, I was put here for a time such as this. I don’t know what for or why at this point, but I just need to be ready whatever it is. Like my time on the bench of my basketball team high school, I need to be ready to play and fill my role whether that be grabbing a few boards in a game or making guys work harder in practice.
I still think about those dreams of youth, but I’m a veteran now. I’ve been through a few battles and I’m sure I’ll go through a few more. But dreams are for rookies, kid. Not because of disappointments, but because the younger generation has the energy to go after them and we need some people back home holding down the fort.