Dreams are powerful motivators. Great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment come when they are realized. Discouragement and depression can result when a dream is not fulfilled.

Three days ago the country celebrated the national holiday commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That day cannot pass without remembering his famous I Have a Dream speech of 1963. He dreamed that we would “rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.” He called for us “to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

We have made progress toward that goal and that dream is still alive in the hearts of many today. The hope is that we will continue until it is fully realized.

In Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Miserables, Fantine is a young working class woman in Paris who is the mother of a child born out of wedlock. After being fired from her factory job she eventually resorts to prostitution in an effort to provide for her daughter Cosette. In her struggle to survive as she suffers the indignity of this lifestyle, she becomes desperate and disillusioned. One of the most moving scenes in the musical version is when she thinks back to happier days and wonders at all that has gone wrong in her life. She laments,

I dreamed a dream in times gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

Then she shares her sad life experience.

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your dreams apart
And they turn your dreams to shame.

“Tigers” are sometimes from the outside of ourselves- untrustworthy people, destructive or deceitful philosophies, systems that are not designed for the good of all, and many more. But many of them are internal. They include, but are not limited to, unbridled passion, uncontrolled emotions, greed, hatred, prejudice, laziness, and dishonesty. If the “tigers,” whether internal or external, are not recognized and tamed, we will discover as did Fantine that they “kill the dreams we dream.”

Jamie Jenkins