You Must Dream
My first friend, on the other hand, had a very different opinion to share. He currently works in the diplomatic field, and his assessment of that field is the bringing together of people for their mutual benefit, helping them solve their problems, end conflicts, even if just personal ones. He told me that others will say, "You can't change the world." His response to them has always been, "I'm not trying to change the world. I'm just trying to change one specific problem for the better." If you can make things better for just one person, that is enough. If you can do it for a community, that is better, and if you can do it for an entire nation, that is great. But improving the life of just a single person, one at a time, is enough to keep him going. And it must be enough to keep me going.
I am half Palestinian, half American, two sides of one of our era's defining conflicts, Middle Eastern Arab, Western American. I have always dreamed of being a connection, a bridge, a medium for some kind of small reconciliation. To have the opportunity to work on this dream would be amazing. But to acknowledge that dream was too much for me. It seemed too big, and in my cynical teenage years, I decided I'd better aim for smaller prizes, lest I disappoint myself or others. The dream flared up again in college, in a brief spurt of self-confidant energy, and so I have a degree in International Studies, and seriously looked into joining the foreign service. But it soon faded again, overwhelmed by the years of tedious work it would take to even have the ability to make a difference.
But it was always there, the whispering voice always reminding me of my greatest aspirations. I could never escape it, though I might be a wilderness guide, or even a psychotherapist, or a fitness coach, or a rescue technician. No matter what I did, I know that voice would always be there, making me wonder what I could have done to alleviate even one iota of suffering in the conflict. The dream will always be there, because dreams never really die, they only get so weak you can ignore them.
But the fears never die either. My second friend's attitude exemplifies that attitude. There is no hope, only suffering. Best not to get involved if I can. What difference could I possibly make? And how much personal suffering, disappointment, financial difficulty will I incur in my futile efforts to prove something?
A lot, admittedly. But one thing I learned from working with Primerica is that the 'American dream' of being debt free and financially independent, with 2.3 children, a golden retriever, a nice house, and whatever vacations I want, that is not my dream. Even if I had all that, all the financial security I needed, a happy family, a loving wife and kids, massive beautiful home, I would still not be happy. They help people, certainly, I don't want to downplay that. It's just not inspiring enough for me. I would rust.
My first friend put it well. You have to dream big, and you must follow your passion, and your must be patient and persistent beyond belief. You have got to dream, and people will always tell you why your dream is too big, and why it'll get you hurt (personally, if people aren't saying that, I'd say you need to dream bigger). "You are being too idealistic, don't you see how it's a waste of time?" But my friend said, if you are privileged (and I admit I am) life is about sharing that fortune with those who are less privileged. I have always believed that a life can only be measured by the other lives it improves, not just how well it improves itself. You just break even if you give someone else great opportunity. You don't start to earn your keep until you help more than one person. Certainly, we can help people near us, and in small ways, but if I have the resources and ability, should I not try to help those who are on the brink of destruction, to be melodramatic? And so what if I don't end up rich? If I am valuable to the world, I will be taken care of. As my friend said, everything in this life is borrowed anyway; you own nothing. When you die, you'll end up in a grave, just like everyone else, and your house and property will go to the next family.
So I have stopped trying to ignore the dream and rationalize it away. I've signed up for the journey, and will go wherever it takes me, always looking to make the best of things and trying to help people along the way, trusting (something I'm pretty good at) that I'll make it somehow. Now let's just hope I get the job, right? ;-)