“No matter hard how they work, how gifted and talented they are, or how big their dreams, the poor have few choices and fewer opportunities to fulfill their God-given potential. These precious human beings, created in God’s image, have been left behind and cast upon the garbage dump of history by circumstances they cannot change.
We must never say it is their fault. How dare we?”
~Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel
Now that I am well-planted once more in Canadian soil, drinking in clear, cool Canadian air and fresh Albert County water… I must say I am more grateful than ever to be Canadian.
Grateful for the freedom to work hard and to realize my potential from the results of my labour – not because I deserve it or earned it – but granted to me by the chance of my nationality and birth.
You see, no matter how hard a Haitian – and the other poor of the world – may work, how great their desire, they are limited by circumstances and man-made systems and disasters beyond their control. All by the chance of their birth.
So I wonder…when we hear that all we need to do to achieve our dreams is to release our negativity, think positive, believe in our potential, envision our success and set our intentions, how does that work in countries such as Haiti or Uganda or Sierra Leone?
Or do these principles only apply to select geographical locations?
But of course, a North American dream is much bigger than the average Haitian’s. We dream of a Harley or BMW while they dream of owning a single donkey. We dream of 3000 sq. ft. beach houses with granite counter-tops and ceramic floors, while they dream of a 16×10 concrete house with real doors and windows. While we dream of climbing the corporate ladder and making our first million, they set up their little produce stand and dream of making enough to put their children through the school year.
We dream only as far as we can see. As a child, I dreamed of a Barbie Country Camper or making a pass mark on my book report. As a teenager, my dreams had names and walked with a swagger…or the really crazy ones stared down at me from a poster on my bedroom wall. In my twenties, I dreamed of an office with a window and my name on the door; in my thirties, a house in the country; in my forties, a trip to Tuscany.
But now I see further than I did two months ago. I’ve seen the other side.
Although I spent my first few days at home in a fugue, I’ve gradually found my footing again. I am being cautious, though. I don’t want to demean or devalue this experience by becoming all judgmental and self-righteous and preachy about our life versus theirs. What I witnessed in Haiti has the power to change me in a profound way…it’s important that I allow it to do that.
But in that changing place, I now see how shallow and self-serving my own dreams have been. So I ask myself: As someone who has access to the stuff dreams are made of, why would I not include dreams for those who don’t? Will I be so single-minded in my own pursuit that I cannot help someone else achieve theirs? Will I be so focused on where I am going that I cannot help another find their way?
We, who are not limited, are notorious for introducing our own fears, constraints and mind-games to keep us cemented in our ruts. We sigh and wish for this or wish for that and yet do nothing concrete to make it happen. So often, we have the opportunity, but no desire; the poor may have the desire, but no opportunity.
We squander our dream potential.
So for now, I’m forming a new dream; it’s just coming in wisps and idle thoughts, fragments and solitary words, but just there, in the space where the unimagined is born, it’s starting to take shape.