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Posted: January 21, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Morgan: Dreams can grow anywhere

Did you set out when you were young with the sure belief that you were going to change the world?

Did you believe in your heart of hearts that you could make a difference in the world by the way you lived your life, by your choice of life’s work or by the passion you directed toward good causes?

Did you ever say to yourself or to God that you were going to leave the world a better place for your having been here?

These are lofty goals and ambitions. Just how big did you dream?

Many people like my late father came into the world without two nickels to rub together, as the saying goes. His goal in life was to achieve the security that his own parents and siblings never felt, and, as a teenager, he was left to provide for his mom, brothers and sisters after his dad died young. He grew up fast, and any way he could make a buck, he did. He bought a truck and hauled families, coal, even pigs, whatever needed to be moved. He worked at the Hub bus station and slept on the concrete floor. He packed peaches for 25 cents an hour. He delivered bread and groceries. He ran a pad press, working for nothing until he learned the job, and then the humidifier at the Bibb plant in Porterdale. He pioneered the pulpwood business in Newton County, and after he bought and cleared land on the Alcovy River to raise a family, he grew and ginned the first bale of cotton in the county in 1956. It got newspaper coverage and a $25 prize. In his long life, he would achieve far more than he ever thought possible when he became the head of a household at the age of 18. Then it was just survival, but he was never without dreams to be more. He always saw another hill to be climbed, and he was still dreaming until six months before he died at almost 90.

When I listened Wednesday to the University of Georgia Metropolitan Design Studio students from the College of Environmental Design who are living and working in Covington this semester, I got another glimpse of dreams as a motivating life force. These kids are pursuing an urban design curriculum with work planned on the Indian Creek greenway at Pace Street and the Salem Town Center node envisioned in the 2050 Build-out Plan developed by our Leadership Collaborative. Their challenge Wednesday was to create with words, photos and graphics their life stories that led them to this major and developed their aspirations. It was clear to see how circumstances and upbringing contributed mightily to a "world view" that makes them passionate about their choice of education, their life’s work and the dreams that will enable them to make a difference in the world.

Factors that shaped them include the places they’ve lived — sprawling farms or industrialized cities; where they’ve traveled or studied abroad — Spain, Switzerland or the Far East; their parents’ livelihoods — farmers, builders or professionals; and their upbringing — conventional or free-wheeling. Something in the circumstances of their lives led them to believe they just might be able to change this world, one building or one town at a time.

I needed a shot of their passion and enthusiasm and left the meeting heartened and hopeful about the power of youthful dreaming. Dreams to me, yes, but more like reality to them. They believe without question in their dreams.

That same day, I raised a glass of wine to celebrate a friend’s decision to retire early from her career in education. The time has come, she believes, to make some new choices, to chart a different path, to do something different — or not "do" at all. Retirement, it’s not an ending but rather a beginning. She’ll now be free to dream some new dreams that felt impossible in the course of a nine-to-five day. She’ll be changing her life, for sure, and, who knows, maybe others’ lives still.

Dreams can grow anywhere, it appears: out of poverty and need, like my dad’s; from youth and education, in the case of the UGA students; and as a result of changing course midstream, like my soon-to-be-retired friend.

Dreams don’t have to be big; even small dreams count. They can be as simple as to dream of growing a record-breaking pumpkin or cooking an Ethiopian-inspired menu when you know nothing of Ethiopia or rebuilding a ’62 Corvette. Dreams of all sizes and forms drive and determine lives, don’t they?

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