This month’s theme is “Affairs of the Heart”, and I thought, what greater affair exists than your deepest and wildest dreams? You know, that childlike dream you have that is larger than life, or at least, larger than you; the dream that’s so seemingly impossible to ever accomplish that you’re almost afraid to say it out loud; and yet, whenever it pops into your mind, your very heart sings. This post is for the dreamers. The ones who chose to put on rose colored glasses and stare down the seemingly impossible ‘til it starts to tremble.
I’m in a weird place in my life right now. A sort of waiting period, and while I like to think I’m a patient person, to be honest, I like getting things done. I like making big and detailed plans and then taking action. I know patience is a virtue, but I’m not really into planning and then having to adapt my ENTIRE plan because I hit a road block, then planning some more, and then hitting another road block until I have this overwhelming sense that my job in that moment, is to pause, breath, pray, and wait a little longer, having faith that dreams do come true, but require a lot of tenacity and often stretch you in very uncomfortable ways. (World’s longest sentence.)
I’ve been dreaming of building a children’s village for orphans and foster children here in Southern California for quite some time. Los Angeles alone makes up 10% of the children in the child welfare system for the entire United States. One city y’all.10% of our entire nation. Something has to give.
I’m a foster and adoptive momma myself (and no, it’s not because I can’t have my own children) so I’m already involved in “the system” but I cannot help to dream about how I could multiply myself and save thousands of children. My plan was to venture into the music business and become the Tom Shoes of music: when you purchase my music, you’re actually helping to change the lives of children who have endured more than you can imagine, and who have horrible statistics stacked against their future. So, I set out three years ago and partnered with a dream team of musicians and writers, and we’ve come up with an outstanding product. But the further I delve into the music business, the scarier and bleaker it all seems.
I was recently told by the very same person who ensured me my dreams were possible, that I am delusional. And for a long moment of two months, I believed this person was right. That I should just quit while I’m ahead: count my blessings, help the children I have, and move on with my life. But then I stopped and considered every single history maker. The dreamers and inventors who have carried us to modern day with all its luxuries and wonders. The fact that you can read this essay in the privacy of your own home, or better yet, on your phone in any location, is a miracle. Tell someone that would happen even thirty years ago before the internet existed, and I bet most people would laugh. Is thirty years not far enough back in time for you? Let’s go back to the early 1900s. We didn’t even have radio. Radio is a miracle. At the switch of a button, you can listen to someone who’s miles away from you. The telephone is a miracle. Maybe you’re reading this article on your telephone while flying a mile high in the air. Consider the invention of airplanes! The Wright brothers built so many failed models before successfully flying, and by the way, their first flight only lasted 12 seconds. Do you think they ever imagined a plane would cross the Atlantic!? Maybe they did, after all, they were wild enough to believe humans could fly, but I can promise you anyone they shared their harebrained dream with scoffed; they probably couldn’t even politely nod before laughing in the Wright brothers’ faces.
My point is, time and time throughout history as far back as time goes, there are thousands of stories of normal people moving mountains and altering the course of history because they dared to dream.
Last week this same person told me everyone would give money to children if they were millionaires or billionaires, but I’m not, so I can’t help. I countered and said, Mother Theresa made quite a difference in the lives of countless children and people all over the world, and she wasn’t wealthy by any monetary means. He laughed. You’re not Mother Theresa. No. I’m not. I’m Jen Lilley, and I have a dream. In the countless adaptations and escape routes I have created to try to figure out how I could help foster children on a massive scale if I don’t have the funds to do it, I considered giving my album as a gift to any child entering the foster system. Foster kids normally pack their few belongings in trash bags y’all. They’re inwardly and outwardly humiliated. And the few items they can call their own mean more to them than we can imagine. Music is a form of escape. Maybe they’ll listen to my album and feel empowered or be emotionally touched and able to cry in the privacy of their own room and process the loss they are going through. It wouldn’t cost me money. I could provide them with a digital download. So, I suggested this. His response: why would you cheapen your product and yourself as an artist by giving it away for free?
I poured over his words for the past 72 hours. Then I stopped and realized I’m not the one who’s delusional, he is. Now stick with me here. If people have to wait until they’re millionaires to help children or contribute to the greater good, I would argue that no one will ever be helped, and no money will ever be donated.
If you hoard your money and cling to it with a death grip, convincing yourself that one day you’ll donate some of it, you’re delusional. There’s a scripture that says, “he who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much” (Luke 16:10). With more money comes bigger bills and greater responsibilities. There will always be bills to pay and more employees to hire to lend to your ever-expanding empire. If you don’t purposefully budget giving into your budget, you never will. Trust me. You never, ever will. Your heart will become so callous you won’t even recognize worthy causes when you hear about them. You’ll always fall back on the excuse of “one day”.
Mother Theresa said do small things with great love. So, start small. Buy a coffee for someone behind you in line. Keep snacks or water bottles in your car to give to the homeless people you see when you’re stopped at a red light. Kindness moves mountains.
As much as I love this naysayer, you can’t let the naysayers in life (who let’s admit, are probably pretty close to you, otherwise why would you even weigh their words at all?) stop you from pursuing your God given dreams. Dreams are scary. If they weren’t, I bet the world would be a much fuller place because so many people would accomplish them. I still don’t know if I’ll ever build a children’s village. But for today, I’m going to keep dreaming that it’s not actually impossible.
I’m not looking to recreate the wheel. (Thank God, engineering is not my forte). I’m just looking to create a loving environment and sense of belonging for our orphans. It’s not impossible. And I don’t have to be a billionaire to do it. Otherwise, in truth, I would be robbing likeminded and hearted individuals of partnering alongside me and pitching in. We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village.” I’m not doing this alone. And whatever your dream is, you’re not alone either. Aside from a God in heaven Who destined you for great and mighty things, I’m with you. Scoff all you want, I align myself with the dreamers. Life wouldn’t be worth living if we weren’t fighting an uphill battle and reaching the summit of victory.
Also, if you know city planners or developers or investors who have a passion and heart for helping end the cycle of child abuse, or for foster care, or adoption, or fixing broken families, email me. PLEASE!! I cannot do this alone. Jen@jenlilley.com