Teaching dogs to dance

Father David Epps's picture

A few weeks ago, I was visiting with family in northeastern Tennessee. Out to dinner with my brother and his wife, we were joined by their 7-year-old granddaughter, Annie.

Annie is smart (“I’ve never made anything less than an ‘A’ in school.”), pretty, affectionate, and a chatterbox.

At one point, I asked, “Annie, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Without hesitation, the second-grader replied, “I either want to be a veterinarian, work at Pal’s (a local fast food establishment), or teach people to dance.”

I suggested that she could do all three: “Annie, you could be a veterinarian, eat lunch at Pal’s, and teach the dogs in your clinic to dance!” She seemed pleased at the suggestion.

For Annie, the future is a blank sheet — all things are possible and there are no restrictions. She is free to dream without the encumbrances of obstacles, detours, and derailments. At the moment, she has no one to discourage her, no one to tell her that her dreams are silly or impossible, and no one to tell her that it can’t be done. She sees the future as a wonderland of possibilities and opportunities.

When was it that most of us lost this sense of wonder, this embracing of possibilities? Somewhere along the line, someone convinced many of us that we were too poor, too dumb, too lazy, too tall, too short, too silly, too fat, too idealistic, too simplistic — somewhere someone told us that we were the wrong sex, the wrong race, of the wrong class and that our dreams were impossible. And, somewhere, many of us began to listen. Somewhere we gave in to discouragement and laid our dreams in the dust.

A lady I know, who loathes having her name mentioned, became sidetracked at a young age by a teen marriage followed by a child at 20 and another child by 22. She received a number of academic honors in high school and there were great expectations. Now here she was with her dreams for achievement seemingly ended.

After her husband finished college, she enrolled in an associate’s degree nursing program and finished, like Annie, without making anything less than an “A.” Because the family needed her income, she went to work. In time, a third child was born.

After several years of working as a registered nurse, she became dissatisfied with the ideal of “settling.” She went back to school, working all the while. Soon she had her bachelor’s degree. Still, she never made less than an “A.”

She enrolled in a master’s program and, upon completion of that degree, was one of two students that year accepted into the rigorous Ph.D. program. She finished her doctoral program, still remaining employed, and still never having made less than an “A.”

Today she is a full professor and an associate dean of a school of nursing at a state university and has presented her research throughout the nation and in several foreign nations.

As the song, “Baby Girl” sung by Atlanta’s country phenomenon “Sugarland” says, “Dreams still come true.”

So, Annie, keep your dreams alive. They may change and you may decide not to teach dogs to dance — but resist the temptation to lay the dreams aside because they seem impossible, silly, or difficult.

There are many people along the way who will seek to discourage you. Ignore them and dream your dreams anyway. If dreams are alive in your heart, so are the possibilities for fulfillment.

Even old men, according to the Old Testament prophet Joel, can “dream dreams.”

[David Epps is the priest and pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277, between Peachtree City and Newnan. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. He is also the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Mission in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]

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