I had someone ask me this question and it caused me to pause. I am always dreaming and could not understand why anyone would not want to dream. Dreams allow us to see possibilities that may not be apparent in our daily lives. Dreams help us to see hope instead of feeling depressed that we have no options.
Now, I know you are probably thinking that if you cannot attain something there is no point in dreaming about it but think of this. If no-one had dreamed of flying like a bird we would not have airplanes, helicopters, jets, and rockets now. If no one had dreamed of a new way to India we would not have the Americas in the way we now know them.
I once worked in a vocational program training developmentally disabled adults to work and earn their own money. Many of these individuals had lived in institutions all their lives. Some of them were non-verbal. One young man who was non-verbal came to work each day and wandered about our sheltered shop examining things as if he thought something was out of place. Each day when the garbage truck came he would mimic the sounds of the truck and pretend he was driving it. Our shop had been petitioning for an opportunity to demonstrate that the individuals we worked with could work in the community given the right job and the right training.
One day the Contracts person called to say he had a supported employment position for a local fast food restaurant in which the person would have to empty the trash and wash the restaurant windows each morning. As we thought about the clients in our program we realized Tim might be just the person for this position. He was physically healthy so lifting bags of garbage would not be an issue, he was able to learn things we demonstrated pretty easily and while he could not talk he did understand when people spoke to him.
I sat down with Tim in my office and told him about the position. When I mentioned taking the trash out he grinned broadly and made the sound of the garbage truck that we were all so used to. We knew immediately that this was the job for him. His first day of work arrived. At the restaurant, he was given a restaurant shirt and hat to put on. He was then trained on the process required to empty the trash containers, change their bags and take the garbage outside. We concentrated on this part of the job before training on cleaning of the windows.
At noon we returned to the sheltered shop where Tim walked in with his shoulders held back, a proud smile on his face and wearing his uniform shirt and hat. On this day when the garbage truck came by Tim smiled and pointed at himself to tell us he helped take out the garbage.
Tim could have been depressed that he would never get to drive a garbage truck. He could have refused to work on anything unless there was a truck involved. The results would have been disastrous. Instead, Tim kept dreaming about that garbage truck until something related came along that would make him happy.
When people say “Stop dreaming. Get a life.” I remind them that dreaming is part of life. When we dream it takes us beyond the probable into the possible. Dreaming gives us hope.
If you are asking yourself what does this have to do with me the answer is everything. When we stop dreaming we give up hope. If you will allow me to paraphrase the Bible says that “people without dreams perish”.
In answer to the question, “when should a person stop dreaming?” I say Never!