“No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” ~ Lupita Nyong’o.
Steve Harvey loves to tell the story of how, when he was much younger and still in school, a teacher asked each child in his class to write down what his/her dreams were (That is what they wanted to be when they grew up). Steve wrote down what he really dreamt of: that he wanted to be on TV. When they were done, they each handed their pieces of paper to the teacher.
The teacher called each child’s name and each child had to stand up and say what they had written on the piece of paper. Steve patiently waited and listened as each child got up and said doctor, teacher, lawyer etc. The teacher called his name last. Instead of asking him to simply say what he had written down, she asked him to come to the front of the class.
As he proudly made his way to the front of the class, he was convinced that he had given the best answer and he was about to get rewarded. He didn’t give his classmates’ snickers a second thought as he walked past in his ill-fitting clothes. Instead of a reward, however, his teacher was waiting for him with a severe reprimand. What business did he have dreaming of being on TV? He didn’t know anyone personally who was on TV and to write this down as his dream was nothing short of cheeky. In short, he was dreaming beyond his station and she was going to shake him back down to earth… hard. She ended her rant by pinning a “shame note” on him and calling his mother. Perhaps she wasn’t a dream killer so much as she was the flea born and raised in the jar (see the previous post here)
When he got home, his mother was waiting. She was furious. Just wait ’till your daddy gets home she said. At this point, Steve figured that he was in for a thorough hiding and he sadly waited for his dad to come home. Finally, his dad came home, ate his dinner, settled in and summoned Steve. “What’s going, son? What’s this that your mum and teacher are going on about?” So Steve explained what had happened and what he had written down. When he was done, his father looked up from the piece of paper and surprised both Steve and his mum by asking “well, what’s wrong with that? A boy is entitled to dream.”
Steve’s father, a man with no more than a grade 3 level of education gifted Steve something so invaluable that, according to Steve, it determined the course of his life: affirmation. Someone finally told Steve that it was ok to dream beyond his station, his circumstances, his present. Someone told him that his dreams were valid.
To top it all off, his father also gifted him some practical advice to go with that affirmation: Don’t tell people who won’t understand dreaming big what your dreams are. They will just discourage you or be disparaging of your dream. They will encourage you to be ordinary. He told his son that next time the teacher asks what he wants to be, he must write down something ordinary but he must never lose the piece of paper on which his real dream was written down and every night before bed, he must look at it and remind himself of what he was really working towards.
Steve listened. It was a long and meandering road but if you switch on your TV these days, there is a good chance you will catch one of Steve’s 4 phenomenally successful TV shows.
“When you cease to dream, you cease to live.”—Malcolm Forbes.
In 2019, I wish you, I and our children the freedom to dream and the passion, vision, work ethic and belief to make those dreams a reality.