Friday, July 22, 2011

Do We Encourage Big Dreams?

In the early hours of yesterday morning I watched the shuttle land for the very last time.  It is indeed the end of the era that I grew up in, believing that we would touch the stars!  My earliest memory of the space program?  Grainy images of astronauts driving around on the moon in their little lunar dune buggy!  As a child, I remember hearing that by the time I was an adult there would be people living in space and on the moon. 

Big dreamers, even bigger dreams!  They may not have accomplished everything they hoped but they did accomplish a lot!  I think that's why movies like "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13" are still popular today because they remind us that we stand on the shoulders of big dreamers.   

As I look at my children and their friends I wonder if we are encouraging them to be big dreamers?  With our obsession with structured schedules and test score outcomes are we taking away the free time needed to be able to dream big dreams?  Big dreams are the stuff of innovation!  Some of the biggest innovations have come from someone tinkering in the garage in the back yard!  I have to wonder if our obsession with standardizing everything is sucking the life right out of creativity and robbing us of the next big dreamer?  I'm not sure.

Big dreamers take risks.  They explore, they tinker, they plan and then they risk trying it out.  There are dozens of examples in the Bible from Abraham to Paul.  Each one had a dream and had to make the choice to step out in faith.  In modern times you could mention people like Henry Ford, Chuck Yeager or Bill Gates.  And here's the kicker-each one of them did this without structured play time or scoring high on a standardized test!  Yet no one would accuse them of being ignorant-on the contrary, they are considered a hero or a genius! 

Not to be a downer here, but I just don't see the next big dream on the horizon.  Maybe I'm not looking hard enough or maybe I've become a little jaded.  I think this all goes back to my post from yesterday about looking for the extraordinary in the ordinary.  Young children intuitively know how to do this but can the same be said of them once they get older?  Can they still look at things with wonder and see the possibilities?  Or have we indoctrinated them so far in the standards of "normalcy" that they can not see beyond what we have told them that they should see?

My hope is that the next big dreamer is out there, somewhere.  That in spite of our efforts to standardize everything, this individual still has the ability to think beyond the standard and  instead think creatively.  We need dreamers and thinkers and risk takers!  We need to encourage them to be what they were meant to be.

And maybe as a society we need to re-think our "standards".  Low test scores do not necessarily mean lack of knowledge.  What it may mean is that we have children who do not think in terms of text and coloring in the lines.  Perhaps we should stop guilting ourselves because our child is not the most popular at play group.  Perhaps, we have a child who needs to climb a tree and think deep thoughts or needs to sit with Lego's and create amazing things!  How many children are slipping through the cracks because they don't fit our notion of normal?  Don't get me wrong, sharing your toys,  and getting along with others does matter.  Being able to read and do math and know certain facts does matter.  But as a parent I would argue that each child is different and they come at things in their own unique way.  If we discourage them from using their natural gifts, talents and abilities we are selling their future short!  We are robbing them of the opportunity to not only blossom but to shine! 

We need big dreams and big dreamers!   We need to give our children the space and the tools they need to explore.  Perhaps the biggest gift we can give our children is the gift of free time.  Instead of mourning that our child is somehow "different" we should celebrate and encourage their uniqueness in a positive way.  Who knows, you could be nurturing the next Edison or Einstein, the next Ford or Gates, the next Bach or Monet. 

Proverbs 22:6 says:
"Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it."
Let your child use their natural gifts and abilities.  Let them have the time to dream big dreams.  If you do that, you'll find that your job of being a parent suddenly becomes a lot less stressful.  And I know, because I have helped raise four children to adulthood!  If I do say so myself, they're pretty cool!  Each one unique and different.  Each one with their own set of dreams. 

Dream my darlings, dream!

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