Harriet Tubman once wrote: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
Dreams that change the world - what an astonishing idea that is! Yet we see dramatic examples of such dreams arising in the most unlikely places. Consider Malala Yousafzai, the 19 year old young woman from Pakistan, who was shot in the head by the Taliban, who felt threatened by her strong advocacy of girls’ education. After the shooting, Malala was flown from Pakistan to the UK for treatment, and she made a remarkable recovery. Some months later, she gave a speech at the UN, to more than 500 young people aged 12-25 from around the world. She spoke with grace and compassion about her dream for universal primary education for children around the world. "Let us pick up our books and pens," she said. "They are our most powerful weapons.”
But we know that not all dreams come true. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our dreams are dashed or shattered in the most devastating way. Danielle was a young woman in Burlington, Ontario, who began to suffer from a severe eating disorder. Her parents struggled desperately to get her the help she needed, and as a family they all battled this condition for years. Danielle improved for some time, but eventually relapsed and died of her disorder. So many dreams must have died with her – her own as well as those of her parents.
Several years after her death, her parents founded Danielle’s Place, an organization that provides support to those whose lives have been affected by eating disorders. In this way, they created a new dream from the ashes of the old. Such stories inspire us to trust once again in the power of dreams. But after we face a devastating event, we will no longer hold that innocent trust that “everything will turn out alright in the end”. Rather, we are called to a higher level trust in which the dark realities of life are acknowledged and accepted, and yet we remain willing to dream again.
That was the great lesson I learned during those turbulent years described in Cloud Messenger. I went to India with all kinds of hopes and dreams, most of which were completely unrealistic. When our health program did not evolve in the way that I’d hoped, I felt devastated. I concluded that my work had been a failure, and fell into a significant bout of depression. With time, I was able to see the beauty of the journey itself, and all that we had accomplished along the way. As I move into a new stage of life, I’m beginning to dream about India again. Garhwal and its people still call to me, and I would love to re-connect in some way. I hold those dreams lightly though, recognizing their magic and their truth, but not creating impossible expectations this time around. Let’s see what happens – I embrace the mystery!