I wrote quite a few blog-posts while in Guatemala but wasn’t able to post them, so I’ll be rolling them out over the next few weeks. Here is the first one, written after our first full day of the delegation…
Having only been here a few days thus far, one of the things that has struck me is how often we have heard those we meet express their dreams for their lives, the future, the Church, the country of Guatemala (this was a feature of the first part of the week, later in the week we went back into the place where dreams were no longer possible, more on that later…).
A good friend of mine from Colombia always asks the question of groups when I am with him, “Cuales son sus suenos?” What are your dreams?
So often I am caught up or those I am with are caught up with goals.
Goals in my mind are different than dreams.
Goals are oftentimes based in commodities, or aquisition, measurement.
The more intercultural encounters I have (in my own house and with new partners) the more I am able to name that conversation in the (white, privileged) United States is more around goals and when I am engaged beyond my tribe it is more about dreams or a framing of goals in a way that is so different that what I was raised with. Different ways of looking at life, different ways of measuring “progress,” different ways of seeing the world. I want to be careful not to raise one thing up over another, creating something pretty, shiny, new to look at–thus continuing to minimize something or someone else. What I want to say is a noticing of duality.
During a class I took in the fall, the professor offered a reflection around leadership as understanding how we can as the leader can live within limits, understand what is achievable, what is really possible and to then help groups think in this way too. Of course this is counter-cultural in the (white, privileged) United States where no goal is too big, the sky is the limit, and life is measured by achievement, numbers, data, degrees and resources. She suggested that most of us are never raised with the idea that there are limits in our lives and so we are always striving, always have the sense that enough is never enough and in the end, live with an never-ending feeling that we are missing out, or that we haven’t done enough. Good leadership is of a different sort, living within limits–and this way of leading in a system that is (white, privileged) will invariably create tension and conflict because even without saying it, that form of leadership is a way of saying “no” to a culture that might not even realize it never really deals with that word of that concept.
Judgement can reign supreme.
Everything is conquerable.
Our society many times lives as an amplification of this, and we see its results, those that are good and those that are negative around it.
What does the leadership task mean to work with limits in a way that creates growth which is healthy or sustainable? How much pushback/counter-culturality does this leadership task require of us?
I am assessing in my mind the harmful and the positive side of dreams and of goals.
Yesterday I listened to holy dreams….
Precious dreams of children at a school in the middle of a garbage dump who will only experience education until around 13 years of age. A dream that there will be educational opportunities after that, or a job, or a way forward. These children, about to “graduate” at this young age made beautiful trees that represent their dreams at this tender age and name those things that hold them back. The drawings are displayed on the wall of the classroom for their classmates to see and reflect on as a way of sharing their dreams and struggles together. The teacher in the classroom told me that the children take the tree-drawings home with them when they graduate.
What is our role as goal-setters that quash these dreams before they even get an opportunity to start?
Dreams of the staff of a nonprofit working on disaster assistance that the seeds they sow in the aftermath of a flood or an earthquake with a devastated community will fall on fertile soil and that the spirits, emotions, souls of induviduals, families and communities will find healing and a way forward marked by self-determination and dignity. They shared their work with these places of devastation and about the power of small but highly signifigant interventions to change lives and transform a community. Leadership in a new form.
Dreams of therapists and church workers for a lessening of domestic violence, and the concrete ways they are working with great diligence to train not just induvidual people, but create capacity-building in communities for re-generation. Dreams in spite of unspeakable evil.
Dreams of a human rights worker that his work will be able to continue. That the communities he accompanies will live. That his voice will be heard–and that the tuggings of God on his heart will someday be fulfilled. Dreams of nonviolence, non-cooperation with evil. Dreams of justice. Dreams of dignity. Dreams of self-determination. And in the stories of communities of non-violent action–glimpses of holiness.
What are my dreams?
What are our dreams?
What is our responsibility?
What sort of a community are we seeking to create?
What is God’s dream?