Why Dreams are Important

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EVERY GRADE SCHOOL child associates these
four words with Martin Luther King Jr.’s
dream speech: “I have a dream.” But do they
know what comes after? King lays out his
dream world with clarity and conviction. It
is a world where Mississippi becomes an
“oasis of freedom and justice,” where the
black and white children of Alabama will be
“sisters and brothers.” It is an amazing
dream and one we, as Americans, are still
struggling to live up to fifty years later.
Six years ago, a colleague of mine wrote
the following in the Public i: “in one of the
least-well-off counties in West Virginia,
there is a phantasmagoric, exquisitely
crafted hospital where you can be treated
free of charge by a practitioner of one of
the known healing arts of your choice in an
atmosphere of fun and friendship—without
malpractice insurance, without thirdparty
reimbursement—where music, theater,
painting, literature, gardening, learning,
and the health of healers (as well as of
patients) considered essential components
of health care. True or false?”
This is the Gesundheit! Institute’s dream,
this free hospital filled with love and laughter
and real healing. Gesundheit is a nonprofit
founded by Patch Adams—yes, the
same man who is depicted in the corny
Robin Williams movie. As the AmeriCorps
Volunteer for the Gesundheit! Institute this
year, I have struggled to wrap my head
around such a big dream. Gesundheit has
been trying to build this hospital for quite
some time, and while we have a wonderful
piece of land where we host inspiring and
challenging educational programs, we are
not much closer to breaking ground on a
hospital than we were ten years ago.
When I first started my position here, I
was skeptical. You may be thinking as I did:
what kind of organization can claim to be
effective while not following through on the
center of their campaign, the physical hospital
building? The point, however of the
dream hospital and of Martin Luther King
Jr.’s dream, of any dream for that matter, is
to dream big, beyond what most of us are
capable of imagining for our world, to set
forth a goal that is so fantastical that it seems
like it could never be possible. Then we
must make it happen with slow, realistic,
incremental effort. Without the big dream to
keep pushing us forward, we might have
lost hope that we could ever truly desegregate.
Without the big dream of the hospital,
we might lose hope that America’s horrifyingly
bureaucratic capitalistic medical system
could ever change. The big dreams give
us support and clarity when we do not
know where to turn. Martin Luther King Jr.’s
speech is still inspiring civil rights movements
across the country and the world.
So, I have a dream. I have a dream of a
healthcare system in which I can trust my
doctors to have my best interests at heart,
and not the best interests of insurance
companies or their own pockets. I have a
dream of a world in which quality, affordable
healthcare is provided for the poor as
well as for the rich. I have a dream of a
community that realizes that the health of
each individual contributes to the health of
all. I have a dream.
Dreams are the axes on which change
happens. Without these beautiful, wonderful
dreams of a better world, we would not
have the energy, the motivation, the inspiration
to keep working for social justice.
Dream on.
Tell me your dreams. You can reach me
at klieder@patchadams.org. For more
information on the Gesundheit Institute,
please visit patchadams.org

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