Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"The impossible dream..."

"To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star..."

The girls came home singing the music from "Les Miserable" this weekend, and something about it sparked a memory for me. At first I couldn't put my finger on it -- and then, there it was. Me, not much older than they are now.

It was the early 70s, and our English teacher, Ms. Kazman, decided to take the American Lit class to a matinee showing of "Man of LaMancha." Sitting in the theatre that afternoon I thought my heart would break wide open, and that all my fragile dreams would come rushing out in a tumble of hope -- leaving me naked and exposed in front of my friends.  But they didn't.

At that point, my dreams were safe, intact, and going according to plan. Graduate with honors, go to university on scholarship, become the "me" I dreamed of. Nothing would stand in my way.

Once we left the darkened theatre and walked into the afternoon sun, Don Quixote's out-of-reach quest, and Dulcinea's redemption, weren't themes I wanted to think about. And as much as I loved the music, especially "The Impossible Dream," I couldn't let an old man's story of chasing windmills bring me down. But like I said, I did love that song.

What a difference a year would make.

My next memory of this song is as an emotional lifeline. My dad had passed on suddenly, and my mother, seven younger siblings, and I were left without support.  No insurance or pension, and no one to turn to -- but God.  All former plans evaporated in the heat of our greater need -- to help one  another through what seemed like an impossible trial of our strength.

Suddenly songs like "The Impossible Dream," were not just beautiful, but vital. I can remember countless moments of getting in my car, sliding the bulky recording of "The Man of La Mancha," soundtrack into the 8-track player, and singing at the top of my lungs.

I was usually alone as I drove the 60 miles from where I worked to the old stone farmhouse my family had moved to while I was still in high school.  But I often felt as if the entire cast was in the car with me.  And I can still feel the hot tears of anger and frustration, mixed with hope and resolve, when I hear them sing these lines:

"This is my quest,
to follow that star.
No matter how hopeless,
no matter how far.
To fight for the right,
without question or pause.
To be willing to march into hell
for a heavenly cause.

And I know,
if I only be true,
to this glorious quest
that my heart
will lie peaceful and calm
when I'm laid to my rest..."

Perhaps it sounds heavy and morose, but this was what I clung to. I truly believed that, "nobody wins, until everybody wins." This was my truth.  I couldn't even imagine any other.  It wasn't a noble gesture. It was, simply, the only path I knew I could trust for myself -- if I ever hoped to lie peaceful and calm when I lay down to rest.

So, that was what I did. My quest became inextricably united with that of my family. Making sure that we all survived, were healthy, educated, and safe became a family quest. And over the years, this song -- along with many other inspired songs of hope, hymns of faith, and anthems of courage -- helped us take the next step...and the next, and the next.

Families around the world face these kinds of challenges every day.  We were no different.  And like those families, we learned to find our way through faith, hope, trust, and love.

When I hear my daughters singing "I Dreamed a Dream..." from Les Miserables, I can't help but remember how I was just a girl myself when I dreamed an "Impossible Dream." But it's an impossible dream that has come true.

When I look at my sister's contribution to the national dialogue about prison reform through her book, "Life after Life," I feel like a dream has come true. When I see my brothers' devotion to their families, their work, and their community -- the dream is alive and breathing.

When I consider my sisters' contributions of music, art, community, wellness, education, motherhood -- and so much more -- I feel as if we have collectively dreamed an impossible dream that's come to life in ways untold.

And when I think that our mom is still able to witness and experience her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren's love, health, and happiness -- well, the dream was not so impossible after all.

The Bible asks:

"What cannot God do?"

I can answer, "Nothing, there is absolutely nothing that God cannot do." He can make impossible dreams come true. He gives us strength when we've reached our last ounce of courage, and enough love to go, "where the brave dare not go."

I am so deeply grateful,