Having a Bright Future When All Seems Lost

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One of my little addictions is watching war documentaries on various history channels. I have seen a lot of people die on TV. I think it has to do with the fact that I am always trying to do new things that require facing the enemy of tradition. Today, I watched a show about World War 2 and the invasion of Normandy. The story featured an American soldier who won the US congressional medal of honor, which pays the highest respect for bravery under fire. Despite his heroics on the battlefront he could not prevent the death of his brother who died while fighting on Omaha Beach. He said that he has had continuing dreams of his brother for over 50 years since his brother’s death in 1944.

So I asked myself, on hearing about this story, why he would have dreams for so long about his brother. He had been a faithful soldier that had gone off to war to fight for a just cause, but nothing in his soldiering could save his brother from an untimely death on that beach. The purpose of the war, as I see it, was to make the world safe so that a person like him could have a life of peace and harmony with his brothers. When he came home from the war having received high honors but not having his brother present in his life, he must have surely had torn feelings. On the one hand he was a hero, but on the other he was without a brother. The scourge of fascism was ended in Europe and Asia in no small part by the heroics of such soldiers, but in his own family there remained a hole. The future that he had probably envisioned with his brother was suddenly finished.

So why the dream? I am sure that I have listened to over a 200 people share their experiences where loved ones has come back in the dream life who have already died to the physical world. Inevitably, their message is the same one which is that they are fine in the next world, the people in this world need not worry about them, and that they can let go of their grief and get on with their own true lives. The dream world is kind and patient and without time, so it doesn’t seem to mind sharing dreams repeatedly to the person in the physical world for as long as it takes to get the right message.

There is nothing the young soldier can do to turn back the clock and save his brother from an untimely death, but he can deal with his own grief. The people who have gone on to the next world seem to being quite fine, but it is we, the living who suffer.

In 1982 one of my great educational mentors was murdered while on a routine visit to New York City to discuss some ideas with people at the United Nations. I had envisioned my professional career being played out together with the educational model he created, but then he suddenly died, the program we were working on was curtailed, and I was suddenly left without a future. From time to time he appears in my dreams in such a way that the dream feels like real life. When I wake up, I suddenly fall back into grief as if he has died all over again. For a long time I thought he was trying to communicate to me to continue the work of the model, but as I think about the soldier and the other people who shared similar dreams of loved ones who have passed on, I am thinking that he is saying that he is perfectly fine, doing great work, and that my future can be extremely bright. The dreams have a lot more to do with my inability to have a bright future without him than needing to hang onto his model and further it.

After his death, I spent the next six years on an First Nations Reserve in Canada. Instead of the hallows of a university campus I was thrust into the field of application into the worst possible environment imaginable. No high school graduates for over 12 years, 50% attendance in the school, 80% sexual abuse, alcohol, drug, and gambling abuses in every family. You name it, we had it. And the model worked very well. Students stopped dropping out, attendance rose to 95%, teenage pregnancies decreased, and scores of people went into treatment for addictions. I didn’t need my mentor there to have a bright future or create bright futures for others.

The ideas that I learned while studying the model have worked wherever I have applied them very effectively. I still use them everyday and as long as I have a bright and enthusiastic future they will surely keep producing. The soldier on the battlefield in World War 2 woke up courage in himself to do remarkable feats during the war, and his brother’s death is a reminder to keep doing heroic events everyday with weapons of peace. Courage generalizes. Notice in the picture that boys are wearing pink and the girl blue. Now that is radical change.

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