Monday, October 10, 2011

31 Days: Letting Go of a Dream

I grew up in a town that was one mile long, one mile wide. It had a single stop-light and a tiny convenience store that kept us in Hostess Fruit Pies and Mountain Dew. Our school was the heart of the town, we went every day from the time we were five up until we were eighteen. The class of '94 graduated 43 students and for the most part, we had grown up together. We memorized Letter People songs and Robert Frost poems and marching band music together. We were all smack dab in the bottom fringes of middle-class. We were mostly all the same, in every way.

My house was two miles out of town, though it might as well have been twenty. I lived my childhood with the best of both worlds, Summers spent lounging around in the solitary confinement of corn fields and occasionally tearing around Pleasant Hill on bicycles with my best friend Angie, a townie.

My Dad extolled the virtues of parenting away from city limits. "You couldn't run around with your friends every day." Since it was my only frame of reference and he was a pretty smart dad, I decided early on that he was right. The ideal for my future children would be to attend the smallest school around. Small equaled Best. Smallest meant safest. Because my childhood was idyllic and safe and naive and fun, it had to have been because of the town I lived in, the school I attended. I never even considered an alternative.

I imagined my future babies, all fine-tressed and knobby-kneed. I might have called them Stella or Fisher or Maizy or John. I don't know. But they looked like me and they lived like me. They were safe, happy, like me.

As it turns out, I've only one fine-tressed child and he doesn't resemble me any more than the other two. They'll soon be part of a school system that graduates over 400 students each year and they'll be in the minority not just because of their races but because they are not Hispanic.

They will memorize Robert Frost poems and marching band songs together. They'll pick up some Spanish. They'll own the neighborhood on their Wal-Mart bikes. And if they're lucky, they'll find a pop machine that still carries cans, because there's no better sound than that pop-hiss on a hot July day.

They'll feel like the world is theirs.

They might come to believe that a big, ol' city school is really the only way to go. And I'll sit back and smile as God takes their big dream, and forms it into one that is entirely unexpected and new. Because in that forming they will see for themselves that maybe they're not as smart as they thought, that every single success is only by the grace of one who sees beyond student:teacher ratios and standardized test scores. He decides what "best" really means. We can never take the credit.

*For the rest of the Letting Go series, click here.

PS - I read this last night in about 2 hours. It's fantastic, beautifully written, and important. It will change the way you see the world around you.