What Happens to a Dream Deferred?

As a teenager, I was not much into poetry. I’m still not that into poetry. I love Shakespeare, however, for some reason I don’t think of his writing as poetry. I think of it as play writing. I love the poetry of the Bible, in particular that found in the prophet Isaiah and the Psalms. Other than that, it’s pretty random which poems I like. But when I was introduced to African American poetry in high school, I found something I could relate to. For some reason, words of former slaves, longing for freedom, spoke to this middle class, white teen.

I particularly liked Langston Hughes’ poem, A Dream Deferred. At that time I was too young to have any real experience with dreams deferred. My life was waiting to open up. I was waiting to graduate and get on with my life and live my dreams, so in that sense, my dreams were deferred, but nothing like the dreams that had been deferred in the black community.

Now I can relate much more to the poem. I have had dreams that were put on the shelf while life happened. Some I have let go of, others I pick up now and then and dust off to see if there remains any life in them.

So what happens to those dreams put on hold? Do they eventually fade away with time till they no longer matter? Life has a way of intervening, knocking down and purifying our dreams until only the most important remain.

In my novel, Dreamweavers, Kate looks back at her life, the dreams she had put on hold while raising her daughter and realizes she has lost herself, lost her dreams somehow in the process. It didn’t happen overnight, but happen it did, lost in the realities of dirty diapers, preparing lunches, and hand-holding as she sent her daughter off to school. Despite her best efforts to not do this, she found herself investing her dreams in her daughter.

Dreams deferred sometimes seep out the corners of our life, overflowing into other areas. If not, perhaps the pressure would build up so much that they would explode, as Langston Hughes suggests.

But what happens to all of the dreams of earlier generations? What has happened to the dreams of those brought up in slavery? Or those being raised in poverty in third world countries? Or those thousands who die in tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes? Those who never had a chance to realize their dreams? What happens to those dreams?

Is our God, the great dream catcher in the sky, who collects them all and treasures them for us, saving them for when we meet in heaven???

What dreams have you deferred?

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