“I’ve watched as countless people around me spend the bulk of their lives pruning their dreams instead of living them.”
When Christine Rogers entered Valley Forge Christian College as a freshman she had some big dreams. She began her message to our students during Homecoming 2012 as the Young Alumnus of the Year with these words, “My stomach hurt for weeks before I left (for college) because I was so excited…I was hungry for change. Not because my past was unsatisfying, but because my dreams for my future that God had placed within me were beginning to grow.”
As she continued speaking I knew all of us who were listening were in for a treat. And we were not disappointed. For the next 30 minutes or so she spoke of her journey as a student during those years on our campus to where she is now as a distinguished teacher at the Wilson Middle School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Her big dreams have helped her keep growing and growing. “Routine is one of the quickest ways to squish change. And as a teacher, “she observed, “I’ve had the same routine since I was five years old. Roads traveled too long soon become life’s ruts.”
In order to reach your dreams, Christine made three suggestions. First, she said Use Your God Given Talents. “Most people have a narrow view of what talents are and so, many people cut themselves short as a result of that view.” Often teachers praise students who excel in math and linguistics but, as Howard Gardner says in his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, “…an individual who excels in math and linguistics is limited. His seven intelligences illustrate we may have numerous talents we don’t even realize we have.
Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
Secondly, Happy is a Choice. Christine described an exchange she had with her favorite VFCC professor, Dr. Janice Gable. As a student, she was overwhelmed by her work schedule and her pressing class assignments and just a lot of life which “…had been filled with the dark blues of stress.” In a brief exchange she had with Dr. Gable about these challenges, she described how her beloved professor looked at her with a smile and said I could either do the assignments or not do them. But if I was going to do them, I might as well enjoy it instead of wasting a beautiful afternoon worrying about it.
“Life isn’t always a happy Facebook status,” Christine said. “It has raw heartbreaking moments. After I left college, my dad was diagnosed with cancer…Dad didn’t get better. Dad died.” But with a perspective beyond her years she continued, “My motto is, if I’m not going to remember it in six years, I’m not going to get upset about it today.”
And, finally, she told us to Continue to Dream. Carl Sagan said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. And we must always be careful we don’t “prune back our dreams” because we may wait for a better time or when we have more money or when we are older. Any number of excuses can ruin our best dreams.
Christine met a handsome young man named Lee in Dr. Gable’s English class. He is now her husband and together they made a family list of their individual dreams: hike the Scottish highlands; hike the Appalachian trail, see Stonehenge; find Nessie; travel by boat up the Amazon River; learn to scuba dive; be conversational in another language; walk the great wall of China; ride a camel; see the aurora borealis; own a Great Dane; learn to sail. Already some of those dreams are beginning to happen. We must never prune them back.
May we all heed Christine’s challenge as we begin 2013.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA