Martin Luther King Jr. is a celebrated American hero. In his fight for equality, he said nothing more well remembered than the line “I have a Dream” from the speech he uttered in 1963 during The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Too often, we consider our dreams to be the work of fantasy. But there are two kinds of dreams. The first is what a friend from South Africa calls “thumb-sucking” dreams, where we just sit around and wish things were different. It is the way we normally think about dreaming.
The second kind of dream was what MLK was talking about in 1963. A practical dream (it was during a march for Jobs!). A dream about action, intention, and purpose. MLK is talking about vision.
Dream and Vision
The difference between a dream (in the first sense) and a vision is intention. Visions are active; “thumb-sucking” dreams are passive.
A lot of us have a lot of ideas of how the world could be better. We sit around (with our thumbs in our mouth) “dreaming” about a better life for ourselves and a better world for our children. This is not the legacy of MLK. His message is not “complain and hope things get better”. His lasting message is to live with intention toward the vision God has placed on your heart.
So, how do you turn a dream into a vision? How do you take a lofty idea or a faint inkling and turn it into something practical, something you can live toward with intention?
One of the things MLK did spectacularly is put words to his vision. He names what he wants to see come to fruition.
One of the things that keeps our dreaming in some semi-conscious area of our brain is that we do not know how to do the work to really name what we want. We just know there is some sort of faint desire to see the world (or our lives) improve. We don’t really know why. We don’t really know how.
A THERE statement is a powerful thing. It is a letter of intent, a mantra, a notice of intention. By discovering and explicitly stating what we truly desire, we put words to our vision. Words that inspire action. Naming our vision creates a structural tension with our current reality. When we name a vision, we immediately start to see where our HERE does not line up to that vision.
Vision is difficult and complicated, but it is a very practical thing. Wanting to be a published author is a practical vision. Wanting a healthy marriage is a very practical dream. So is equality.
Like King, we have to have the courage and clarity to name our vision, to put the proper words to our dreams. To connect it to our values. Only then will we start to see that what we imagine is not just part of our sleepy subconscious, but a practical possibility. If we want a better world, we have to want it, name exactly what it entails, and take steps to achieve it with honor.