Some years ago I took on an assignment in a southern county to work with people on public welfare. What I wanted to do was to show that everybody has the capacity to be self-sufficient and all we have to do is to activate them. I asked the county to pick a group of people who were on public welfare, people from different racial groups and different family constellations. I would then see them as a group for three hours every Friday. I also asked for a little petty cash to work with as I needed it.
I asked what their dreams were. Everyone looked at me as if I were a kind of wacky. “Dreams? We don’t have any dreams.”
I said, “Well, when you were a kid, what happened? Wasn’t there something you wanted to do?”
One woman said to me, “I don’t know what you can do with dreams. The rats are eating my kids. ”
“Oh,” I said, “that’s terrible! No. Of course you’re very much involved with the rats and your kids. How can that be helped?”
“Well, I could use a new screen door, because there are holes in my screen door.”
I asked, “Is there anybody around you who knows how to fix a screen door?”
“Maybe I can have a try,” a man said.
The next week when the group was seated, I said to the woman, “Well, is your screen door fixed?”
“Oh, yes,” she said.
“Then we can start dreaming, can’t we?”She sort of smiled at me.
That helped the group to begin to dream. The seemingly small successes allow the group to see that dreams were not insane. The small steps began to get people to see and feel that something really could happen.
Everyone found something. The man who put in the screen door became a handy man, and another woman who took in the children became a licensed foster care person. In twelve weeks, I had all these people off public welfare. I’ve not only done that once. I’ve done it many times.