Dream Protectors

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Stewarding the Heart Visions of Our Children

Extra: Watch our Editor’s Chat with the author.

This month’s theme of stewardship and how we as Friends are obligated to be successful guardians is indeed a timely topic for this season of thankfulness.

Obviously, climate activism, earthcare, money, investing without harm, a healthy ecosystem, and some institutional shifts come to mind as issues we steward. And yet, none of those categories spoke to me. With some deliberate thought as a community organizer who works to support young people with their academic responsibilities and quality out-of-school-time programs, it was our children’s hopes and dreams that spoke to the teacher within.

Several years ago, Unified Efforts, the nonprofit I founded to serve underprivileged children in West Baltimore, Maryland, launched an “I Want to Be a . . . When I Grow Up” campaign. The children verbalized how they envision themselves in the future. Specific respectable professions were voiced: for example, police officer, heart surgeon, chef, astronaut, professional athlete, and scientist. We were uncovering individual dreams. My takeaway came in the form of a query: now that we have been given orders from our youth’s specific desires, how will I, as a Friend, implement Quaker principles so that young dreams can come true?

Understanding the assignment helps. It matters not whether our young experience an affluent upbringing or one of dire poverty. Dreams do not care about such tangibles; they land in the heart.

In Luke 6:45 (NKJV), Jesus says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Therefore, out of the abundance of our desire to be the guardian of our children’s dreams, our words and actions should come forth with much thought and deliberation. Perhaps stewarding dreams may very well be the most challenging stewardship of all. Above all, it requires unconditional love, sustainability, commitment, and regular collaborations with the dreamer.

The mission of being a successful guardian over dreams should not encapsulate our personal fears. Unsuccessful stewardship could potentially close doors and prevent way opening and moving forward.

This past August, I was vacationing in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. While I was sitting on a bench at a bayside beach facing the water, an elderly man asked if he could sit with me, and we introduced ourselves: I was a visitor from Baltimore, and he was a nearby resident, and sitting on this specific bench was one of his daily constitutions. Without my delving into the specifics of his personal life, he shared with me a concern on his mind: his wife was distraught over their son’s decision to join the police department. Since the age of three, his son had said to him and his mother that he wanted to be a police officer when he grew up. What were the odds that this man would sit beside me, a former Baltimore City police detective?

My questions to the gentleman were these: “Since your son has shown his dream from as early on as three years of age, why would anyone be surprised by his adult decision to become a guardian? And thus, has he not prepared you for the inevitable?” My beach bench partner expressed how delighted his son was upon graduating from their local police academy and how he now aspires to become a Massachusetts state trooper, but concern and fear for his safety were prohibiting family support for his career choice. I revealed to him that I had direct knowledge of what it takes to be a public servant, who not only has the authority to enforce the laws of the land with impunity but also has great responsibility to protect citizens’ rights. Much is expected of dedicated sworn members who become stewards of the right to safe freedom of movement for all.

As the conversation progressed, it was abundantly clear to me that their family and his wife were speaking out of fear: fear that their son’s well-being was in jeopardy. That was understandable, even for me, a former law enforcement officer; it is a legitimate concern indeed.

It was time for me to leave my bench buddy. He was appreciative of my personal input and expressed his intent to share our conversation with his wife. He was confident it would shed some positive light on how she continues to process her concern. Afterward, when I had private time to revisit my chance meeting with this concerned father whose son’s dream continues to be in need of support and understanding without fear, I thought about how it affirmed my belief that dreams do not necessarily have an endgame. They continue to reinvent themselves and grow, always needing respect and support from those who are privileged enough to be made aware of a young person’s heart vision.

The mission of being a successful guardian over dreams should not encapsulate our personal fears. Unsuccessful stewardship could potentially close doors and prevent way opening and moving forward.

Organizations designed to assist our young work to uplift and guide them in a path that will lead  to fulfillment of their hopes and wishes. Encouragement, motivation, and respect for visions will build confidence in our young and give them a sincere “I hear you; I see you” vibration from the adults in their lives.

On another occasion, I was interacting with someone who spoke of his mother’s disciplinary actions. She would say, “Now go to your room; sit quietly; and just dream.” I inquired, “Was that a punishment?” We laughed, and it was obvious his mother understood the power of daydreaming quietly. I love the concept. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to incorporate a dream time in a curriculum just for kids? In doing so, it would require concerted effort by adults to follow up with support, motivation, and acceptance.

Stewardship, one of our Quaker testimonies, entails a healthy measure of responsibility. It can be a heavy lift. And yet there it is! Tangibles are physically evident and can be touched with the human hand. Non-tangibles also need protection and can only be touched heart to heart and with love.

A return on a monetary investment may produce a desired windfall, but it may be temporal. Dreams fulfilled bring forth peace as one of their dividends, and these are far-reaching and forever fruitful. By speaking of their dreams, the dreamers invite those around them to become their dreams’ protectors.

Deborah B Ramsey: Guardians over Dreams. Watch our author chat interview and read the lightly edited transcript.

Show notes for video interview.

Deborah B. Ramsey

Deborah B. Ramsey is executive director of Unified Efforts, a nonprofit that serves underprivileged school-age children in West Baltimore’s Penn-North community. She is also an Open Society Institute Fellow, a Greater Baltimore Committee Community Impact winner, and a part of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership speaker's bureau. She is a member of Stony Run Meeting in Baltimore, Md.

4 thoughts on “Dream Protectors

  1. Just realizing how the young dreams but lack support to motivate them realise their dreams, hence many untapped talents going to waste. Thanks alot for the insights Deborah.

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