Last night I heard a speaker tell the story of a man-a very wealthy man by any standard. This man has an enormous, beautiful home on the outskirts of Rome. In this lavish home he has a room-a special room. That room houses his collection-of art, literature and music.
This collection, though, is different from the typical collection of a wealthy art fan. You see, he doesn't frequent the auction houses, bidding against other wealthy patrons in an effort to acquire highly sought after, well-renowned pieces. He doesn't send art agents traipsing about the country in search of that one "hot" item. In fact, not a single piece in this collection will ever make its way-on loan or otherwise-into an exhibit at a gallery or museum.
No, the collection isn't a collection of work by his children. Nor is it some amatuer collection that is special to only this gentleman. Every piece in the collection is by a master-pieces by Renoir and Van Gogh. Writings by Shakespeare. Musical compositions by Chopin and Beethoven.
But if, for some reason, you were fortunate enough to be invited to see the rarely-seen collection, you'd be ushered into this home, down a long hallway, to a locked door that opens to a dark, windowless room. And as the gentleman inserts the key into the door to unlock it, you'd happen to glance up, and as the door creaked open, you'd see a sign mounted above the door-a sign that says "Chamber of Unfinished Dreams."
You see, each of these pieces are unique in that not a single one is complete. As that door creaked open, and light leaked in, you'd see slabs of granite-perhaps with a hand and forearm sticking oddly from the side. You'd see canvases-half painted, faces of figures without feature. You'd see musical compositions-without a final movement. Poems without the last few stanzas. Unfinished dreams.
And I realized as the speaker told the story that, somewhere inside, we each have a similar chamber. And last night, as I listened to the speaker, I hesitantly walked down that long hall, and unlocked that door, and opened it-the door to that room that I so dread looking into. Because the contents of that room represent the dreams and hopes that, over the years, I've cast off as hopelessly damaged. Dreams of business ownership-dashed due to naive business decisions. Dreams of literary greatness-discarded due to criticism from others. Dreams of financial success; of personal development and career advancement; and others-dreams that nobody even knows about, that I've ultimately cast off as hopeless. Some of them are small. Some are huge. And I stand in that room, and as my gaze passes slowly over each one, I remember that swelling, the hope, the inspiration when each of those dreams were birthed. And then I remember the painful bitterness of awakening to the realization that that I'd damaged that dream-that it could never be. And I remember the long walk to that room, opening the door, and moving things aside-making room for yet another addition to this, my own "Chamber of Unfinished Dreams."
And as I stand there in that room, and remember each of those painful visits, I realize that the room is far more cluttered now that it used to be. You see, over time, I've continued to dash dreams, and the shelves are starting to fill, and the corners are stacked with piles of once precious hopes.
And I think about others that I know. People who, over time, have added to their own chamber, time after time, as we all do. Until the chamber was so full, that they had to remodel the home that is their heart-removing walls, and pushing furniture aside, so that there was room enough in the chamber for the new additions. Until, at some point, they wake to find that their entire existence is defined by that chamber. They spend their days and nights in one small bare corner of their heart, with an entire house full of unfinished dreams. And as they sit there in that corner, that look out over the vast sea of broken, damaged hopes and dreams, and cry over them.
And then I come back to the present, and look around this-my chamber-again, and realize that there are things missing. I remember trips that I'd made to this room to make another painful deposit, and realize that those unfinished dreams aren't there anymore. Like a particulalry cherished dream of personal success in the corporate world-that I'd sat sadly there on a shelf five years ago. And then I remember another trip down that hall-and on that trip, instead of making a deposit, I dug through the clutter, and pulled out that old dream, dusted it off, and got to work on it again. And now, I rush out of the chamber, and begin to walk through the rest of the house, looking at all those revived pieces-the once damaged, hopeless dreams, that I've dusted off, and started working on again. And then I look up at the walls, and see some of the finished pieces-some of them that had once sat on those same shelves, but now rest in places of prominence. Pieces that I proudly show off to friends and acquaintances. And nobody but me knows that the finished product isn't exactly what it was originally intended to be. Because the finished work is still beautiful!
And so, with that, I go back to that dreaded door, but this time with a spring in my step. I open it, and turn the light on. And begin to take inventory, dusting off each and every one of those dreams. And I make a commitment to, starting today, one by one, take those damaged works off the shelf, and renew my work on them!
I urge you, take the same trip. The creator is usually the only one who can see the flaws in a work of love. Pull out one of those dreams that you casted off so long ago. Dust it off, put it back up on the easel. And give it your all. I guarantee you that, when you're done, it'll occupy a place of honor in your gallery of accomplishments!