Knowing when to face the truth and when to dream

On my radio, the Air Supply song, “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” was playing. The line: “I know just when to face the truth, and then I know just when to dream,” resonated with me. I thought that the ability to have such an accurate evaluation of self within the challenges of worldly events was an amazing gift. I also realized the importance of balance between the truth of limitations and the possibility of a world yet to be. 

I smiled as memories of a former and sometimes mischievous student came to mind. One time, instead of detention, he went to basketball practice. As I escorted him from the gym back to my classroom, he said, “I am going to be a center in the NBA.” I looked down at this young boy about three-quarters of my height. I thought, “Lord, not just a player in the NBA, but a center?” 

There is probably a smile in your heart as you imagine the young man’s wish. The first step of working on one’s dreams is a thorough analysis of what is needed to achieve the goal. In his case, athleticism, height and quite frankly luck. Second to that objective examination is an honest self-evaluation of one’s assets and liabilities. Being barely five feet tall precludes one from blocking a seven-foot man’s slam dunk attempt! However, as important as facing the truth is, it is never a call or excuse to give up. Why? Because the next step in a game plan or vision for bringing a dream to fruition is a deeper analysis of what it is that is truly needed. In addition, seeking out assistance or even cleverness in the route chosen can bring one to a goal that at first glance seemed impossible.

Dreams are important for each of us at all stages of our lives. One key part of knowing when to dream is rejecting the learned notion that to be an adult one must just accept things as they are. God has instilled deep within each of us the yearning to find a special way or place where we each can help bring God’s love to the world. Recognizing things as wrong and then facing the truth allows one to freely choose to serve to be God’s hands to initiate lasting change. 

One example of someone who lived this is Father Oscar Romero. He had been a priest in El Salvador for a quarter of a century. He was transferred to a very poor, rural region. This pastoral region let him view his boyhood hometown with new eyes. In Romero’s words, “There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.” God’s Commandment of love resonated within Romero. He was made Archbishop of San Salvador. Romero awoke one day sure that God wished him to travel a new road. He was to be a vocal advocate for social justice. Romero denounced the violence of the civil war and the deeply-rooted patterns of abuse that led to the conflict. He was tireless in his efforts for the poor. Father Romero became known as the “voice of the voiceless.”

Archbishop Romero viewed each of us as builders and prophets of a future not our own. He said, “We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something and do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.” His words guide us to navigate past the “I don’t know what to do” or “there may be a price if I act” doubts. The focus is God’s plan to be fully developed in God’s time. Knowing others will be there to assist, or if need be carry on the work, provides freedom. One can dream with the courage to envision a future with each of us more fully sharing God’s love with all of God’s children. 

Romero’s life reminds us the story does not end with what people initially think. Many clergy including Pope John Paul II were divided over Romero. While Romero was saying Mass a gunman killed him. Thirty-five years after he was killed, Romero was beatified by Pope Francis. The truth is that society may or may not come to approve of one’s work to help bring about God’s vision of the world. 

Even so, don’t miss the joy given to us by God in that freedom to dream and create. From Archbishop Romero’s last homily: “Beautiful is the moment we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be.” 

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer and a member of St. Bernadette’s Parish in Fall River.

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