By Kim Supermutt Goodman
All children have dreams. Some are realistic such as growing up to be a singer, athlete, or doctor. Some others are unrealistic such as wanting to be a princess or a superhero, but all of these are healthy. When a child lacks the love and support they need in their life, they are robbed of the ability to have healthy childhood dreams. They develop negative feelings about themselves and the world around them. Does any child really grows up and says, “I want to be an addict,” or “When I grow up I want to have a mental illness?” No, these are not the dreams that children have. Homelessness, addiction problems and mental illnesses can be the aftermath of broken dreams. Broken dreams are often caused by years of struggling, years of failing, having people constantly discrediting their abilities, having people abuse them and neglect their needs and from having little or no support from positive people. Some people’s dreams become broken because something may have happened in their lives that they couldn’t control.
To many, the American dream means having the opportunity to go to school, graduate, get a good job, get married, have children, buy a house, buy a car, work for 20 or 30 years, and retire. For children who were born to at least one loving parent and have at least one supportive family member, it is easier than for children who weren’t. It is not easy for a child to stay motivated if they have no support and it is not easy for a child to learn if they are made to feel stupid. It is not easy for a child to learn “right” from “wrong” if they are not being taught what is “wrong” and what is “right”. What will these children believe as adults?
If you see a group of teenagers using profanity and acting in a way you find disrespectful or inappropriate don’t just assume that they are “bad” or that they should know better and look at them in a negative way. Instead consider that they might be the product of their environment. If no one taught them right from wrong they don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. Your parents might have taught you that it is disrespectful to use profanity in front of your elders, but their parents may use profanity around them and use profanity when talking to them. To them, profanity is normal and acceptable. Remember these things as you deal with people every day. Think about these things before you pass judgment on someone because of the situation they are in. Many people only know the world in which they were a part of and don’t know how to open their mind up to see that their world is not the only world that exist.
Some people find it hard to get and keep a job. It is not always because they are lazy and don’t want to work. It may be because they don’t have the confidence to chase after the job they want. They may not have the social or communication skills or the emotional maturity to keep the job if they get it. Other people seem to end up doing one illegal thing after another or end up in jail for not being able to control their actions. They may do these things because they believe they need to in order to survive. In many cases, no one taught them how to live and function in the world properly. They can’t control their behaviors and actions because they were never taught how.
There are many reasons why people have broken dreams but before you look down on them or say something to contribute to their broken dreams, stop. Instead, do something to motivate the person. If a person talks about a dream that they have don’t tell them they can’t even if you believe that they are not capable of achieving their dream. Telling a person that they can’t might confirm their belief that they are incapable. If a person complains about struggling or failing, say something encouraging or uplifting because it might just give them the motivation to try harder or try again. If a person has an idea they want to share, listen to them because, if not, they might give up on their idea, and they might believe that the American dream is lost.
If you see a person who is homeless, has a mental illness or an addiction problems don’t look down on them because they are already down. Their dreams are broken and their spirits are broken. Smile and speak to them to acknowledge that they exist and to show them there are some nice people in the world. If you are a person who was lucky enough to have people in your life who cared enough about you, don’t take them for granted. Be thankful.
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio