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Goals and Dreams
I hate to shop. I do not use that word lightly either. I had probably rather clean out my closet than go shopping. My mom always did the shopping around my house while I was growing up.
Though, when it came to shopping for clothes and shoes, attendance was required. I have always
lived in a small town. It is one of those towns where the local beauty shop is full of gossip and the local restaurant is full of coffee-drinkers and cigarette smoke. My mom, my older brother, my younger sister, and I would load up in the car and drive to the shoe store. The shoe store just outside of the town was pretty well-known ... to us. It was a long, narrow, white block building with a gravel parking lot. Inside it had a section for purses, one for belts, some socks, and of course, shoes.
I was always given the choice of whatever shoes I wanted. I knew though, to pass the
"mother inspection," it was best if they were mostly white and low-top. When I found what
I wanted, I had to try them on. I would walk around in them to see if the heel was going to slip up and down, check them out in those little mirrors they prop up in the floor, and (as the final stage of the analysis) have my toes mashed. My mom would get down in the floor and place her thumb at the end of my biggest toe. She always left this little dent in the end of my shoe, which I wasted no time popping out with the help of my toes. If there was "thumb-room" that meant there was growing room which, to her, seemed to be the most important part of shopping.
It is funny how we buy our clothes and shoes anticipating growth. This is not a bad idea. (I cannot say that I ever owned anything that stayed too big for very long.) Most of my life has been centered around the "biggers" and "betters." It worked. Each of the phases of my life have been, in hindsight, progressively greater experiences. I never wanted to leave elementary school; then I had a blast in high school.
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However, I never dreamed about being an astronaut. When I was in the second grade, a man
from NASA came to our class to tell us about space. I do not think he was a real astronaut, but
he wore a blue jumpsuit and on the pocket were the letters N-A-S-A. For me, that was close
enough. He told us about space camp, astronaut training, space food, rockets, exercises and how
we should eat our vegetables - not that I ever saw what that had to do with space. I did not know that I loved space, but suddenly I did. My mind raced, and I got so excited my imagination had to go to the bathroom. Later that day, I was telling someone about the man who had come to talk to my class. I do not remember who it was or where we were - it doesn't matter - I remember what that person said. I could never be an astronaut. I wore glasses; although I did not understand why, that made me not good enough.
The Bible says, in the twentieth chapter of the book of Proverbs: "Every man is known for what he does, whether or not it is good and pure." The world is full of all kinds of people and each one will affect someone. Their attitude toward life determines what kind of influence they will be. This is not an assumption or a probability. Even if all I ever do is breathe, I have become a part of the air that someone else will breathe. Whether it be a family member, a teacher, or a friend, people who influence us will determine what size dreams we wear. Some provide materials made of 30% hope, 30% drive, and 40% polyester: a wardrobe that is certain not to shrink and sure to allow plenty of growing room. Others tell us to dream big and then robe us in 100% cotton. Teaching with their doubt and narrow-mindedness that we can buy what we want with our imaginations, but, in reality, we will have to shrink our goals down to size.
"Hook this microphone on your shirt and run the cord down your back," he said as he sat back
in his chair and crossed his legs. He was a fairly young man with brown hair and an accent more
southern than mine. His relaxed style seemed to taunt my anxiousness, as I prepared for what I
now look back on as a fifty minute interview. I could hear the sounds of one of my high school
basketball games muffled in the distance. Normally, I was not a big basketball fan, but that night the buzzer was not only calling my name, it was jerking on my sleeve.
Judge Ira Dement had passed an injunction for all Dekalb County schools banning prayer from
sporting events, graduation, and any academic class time. Naturally, this caused a stir. Many
rallies had been held to show support for those who opposed this injunction. After speaking at
most of these rallies, I had been subjected to many interviews and quoted by sundry types of
media: the 700 Club, The Atlanta Constitution, several radio programs, the Associated Press, a
newspaper in England, and most all local papers. However, this was my first sit-down interview.
Dr. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries in Florida had sent a crew, and I met them at the
school. They set their equipment up in one of the elementary classrooms on the right side of the
hall near the gym. (I suppose as I look back now all those clowns and pencil boxes probably
helped me relax.) When the "mic-check" was over, away he went with the questions. I do not
remember what he asked or what I said, but I know that when I left there I felt good about the
stand that I had taken and the seeds I had sewn.
Standing on my own two feet, though my knees shook, and going toe-to-toe with each new
challenge has been the foundation for my life's accomplishments. Whether it was speaking in front of thousands, winning competitions, or teaching myself to play instruments; the victory has rested in completing the task at hand. I did not accomplish these things because I am some sort of phenomenon. The reason I have these, what I consider, accomplishments is because I did not
know I could not. I was never told that I was not able to do what I was doing. I thought it was
expected of me, and I did it. My heartache is for all those people who I have permanently
stationed into a lesser, more stereotypical position, by way of criticism, doubt, or just an
unnecessary generalization. It is frightening to think that we have the power to build-up or destroy someone with our expectations. Howard Hendrix said, "the effective mentor strives to help a man or woman discover what they can be and then holds them accountable to become that person."
Dreams are only broken when they lose their relationship with reality. They only blossom on
the stem of hard work and determination. If I can remain faithful to reality, I can count on the
dreams to survive. Do not be afraid to go shopping. Our imaginations will dedicate us to the items we like. Do not worry about size or price. Do not worry about style or popularity. Dream larger than what you wear; you'll grow into it. Most importantly though, be accountable to your goals and do not buy cotton - it shrinks.