I Have a Dream—and Why It’s Not Just a Dream

by on November 15th, 2010
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I watched my three-year-old nephew recently, and I learned something. I discovered that you can, indeed, learn things from a three year old. Big things, life issue kind of stuff.

He believes, and he had me believing, that it was quite plausible for a sponge, SpongeBob, to actually live in a pineapple under the sea. I’m still iffy on a sponge wearing pants, however.

My youngest is 22 now, and I figured that a day would come during the Barney craze that I’d have to find a way to rationalize to him why the dinosaur was purple. That day never came.

Why? Kids just run with it. Not like in a gullible way, but in an accepting way. Adults should step back and take the lesson. It’s because of the small children in my life that I know Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” vision can become a reality…if adults get with the program or get out of the way and let the children teach us how to get it done.

We always hear how cruel kids can be, and for those of us who survived childhood and the bullying that comes with childhood, we know that’s true. But it’s also true that children are accepting creatures in ways adults are not.

They don’t give a hoot about someone’s color or religion until an adult implants the idea that it matters. Then they notice.

My kids went to a school that was almost like the U.N. I had always made it a point not to try to make an issue out of differences because I think humans share much more commonalities than differences. We all want to live a nice life, and we all want our loved ones to have it better than we’ve had it. My idealism has been chipped away at, yet I still struggle with why people judge people on superficial things. To that end, I worked hard as a parent to let my kids (and any child I came into contact with) know that they should get to know a person just as a person. Dislike people if they aren’t worth liking (and there aren’t many in this category), and like them if they are worth liking—regardless of the person’s external features or political agendas.

As a parent you always wonder if the lessons you try to impart to your children make any difference. Some days seem futile. Then there are those special days, those “aha” days that make you know it is okay to have a dream because with a constant chipping away of stupidity and narrow-minded thinking, that dream can come true.

I had an “aha” moment when my daughter was about seven years old. Ashley came home from school one day describing to me a beautiful girl in her class. She mentioned about five characteristics: her beautiful dress, her lovely hair, her winning smile. It turned out that the girl was Black, and Ashley didn’t include that on the list of descriptors. An adult would have listed it first, because that’s what an adult would have seen first.

All of my idealistic thoughts had actually worked. Back then, I tried to teach a lesson or impart a value I thought was impossible to get across to someone so young. It was quite the opposite.

That was hammered home to me again the weekend I babysat my nephew, Alex. He readily accepted a “guy,” a sponge that wears pants, lives in a pineapple under the sea and holds down a job and has hobbies.

It’s possible. It begins when the grown ups step aside, let go of old wounds and preconceived notions, and let the child work out things in his own head.

If only the grown ups could take a lesson, step back and do the same. It’s then the dream becomes a reality.


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