Dreams & memories
Last week I was a delegate to our United Methodist Annual Conference. I spent three entire days being nice to people.
That’s one day over my usual limit, but by and large, these were such pleasant people that it wasn’t nearly the strain it could have been.
I even came home with one remarkable insight. Some folks might say that’s not much, for three days, but those folks don’t know me. I spent an entire semester at college without learning anything that really stuck with me.
What I heard wasn’t very complicated or complex. It was a simple statement of fact.
“Your dreams need to be stronger than your memories.”
We have a real problem with that, and believe me, I don’t exempt myself. I mean, I’m still mad about the Viking’s four Super Bowl losses, and the guys who lost are now on Social Security. I need to just let that go. And speaking of Vikings . . . if King Harald Hardrada hadn’t been tricked by the English at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, my family might be ruling England today. I coulda been a duke. Try getting over unfairness like that.
Inevitably, there are things we just can’t fix, things we can’t undo, and wrongs we can’t right. Sometimes we just need to stop thinking about the past and go on from where we are.
“But it’s not fair!” you might say. “I’ve had horrible things happen to my people, to my family, to me. Who do I see about that?”
You want to know the truth? Nobody. Oh, if somebody ran over your mailbox or sold you a car with a transmission full of sawdust, there may be possible reparations. But for the biggest, most awful injuries, there’s rarely anything that can undo them.
What right do I have to be talking like this? Well . . . none. I’m a white, male, middle-class guy living a pretty good life in the United States of America. I have a good wife, good kids, and perfect grandchildren. In the human lottery, I’m holding a winning ticket, and I know just how lucky I am. Most of my memories are good ones, my dreams are strong and optimistic, and feeling that way is relatively easy for me, because I’m used to most things working out. I can’t even faintly imagine what some people and countries have endured, and how the past haunts their every moment. Many years ago I was talking to a young man whose parents were going through a divorce. In an effort to be supportive, I said, “Hey, I know what you’re going through,” and he yelled, “No, you don’t.” He was right; I had no idea.
But I do know what works. I come from the epicenter of practical, and if I had to guess, I’d say I’m in the running for the least ideological person on the planet. If you come to me and tell me of wrongs that haunt your memory, I’ll be sincerely sympathetic, but it you come to me and say, “Here are my dreams for the future,” I’ll listen with more than sympathy and do whatever I can to make those dreams come true.
Our dreams need to be stronger than our memories, because while we need to honor the past, we need to live in the future, lest we cheat those who come after us.