When I was working with homeless teens in Chicago early in my ministry, I attended a conference on teen pregnancy hosted by the University of Chicago. The panel of experts included doctors, social workers, psychologists, and front line social service agency workers. I have long forgotten what was said, the notes I took were abandoned many moves ago, but there’s one presentation that sticks with me. It was from a medical doctor who outlined the physical complications that can arise from early pregnancy, but then shifted to the necessity of education. I think most of the room was puzzled by that shift.
In his experience, he said, it was most critical that we attend to education. “Without the ability to imagine a different life, these young mothers can be stuck in a life that is circumscribed by their limited vision of what is possible.”
It is decades since I heard him speak, and that continues to be an idea that guides me.
It recently came to mind when reading an email from Dr. Amanda Kemp, a mindfulness and racial justice mentor. Citing an interview with Angela Davis, she says that we need to be engaging in radical self care in order to be able imagine a new world. As with that doctor long ago, the notion that it is our capacity to imagine a different world that enables its creation. We need both those practices and capacities that allow us to dream, and a wide view of what is possible from many perspectives.
In the last year or more, I’ve been seeking out authors whose experience of the world is different from mine. People of color, Indigenous, and Black writers populate write most of the books I’m seeking out to read, both in fiction and non-fiction. The books that have most inspired me have been Black women who are writing fiction that describes different paradigms and worlds. N. K. Jemison’s most recent book, The City We Became, weaves the lives of diverse New Yorkers who save their city from an interdimensional threat. The relationships and visions of what is possible are the background of the main story, but offer that picture of what we can work toward, what we can bring into being.
In these liminal times, when we haven’t fully left what normal was and haven’t discovered what the new normal will be, we have the opportunity to deeply engage our imagining of what is possible. Hearing voices from diverse perspectives and life experience helps us to broaden our vision and increase our dreams. I invite you to join in this time of creation and possibility.