Last week Pastor Walter Mitty had a dream that stayed with him long after he woke up the next morning.
In his dream he was running for mayor of Poplar Park and was speaking at a campaign rally at Zaphne’s coffee shop. The crowd of residents was made up of 20 adults mostly under the age of 50.
“After I’m elected mayor,” Mitty declared in his dream, “I will have all buildings owned by the village fitted with solar panels and geothermal pumps by 2025. The real emergency is not on the border. It’s in the environment.”
The crowd—the one in his dream—went nuts. “Mitty. Mitty,” they chanted.
“After I’m elected mayor,” he continued standing on a table in the coffee shop, “we will require every business in town to become ADA accessible.”
The crowd was getting revved up. They were tired of business-as-usual politicians and were ready for a candidate with a bold vision.
Mitty continued to get ‘Bravos’ and even a few ‘Amens’ from the crowd as he laid out his plans to provide free day care at the community center, a location where residents could deposit their compostable garbage, free lunches in the summer for kids from families who qualified, and diversity quotas for all village departments.
He even declared that after getting elected he would have one of the rotating statements on the digital sign outside village hall read, “Dreamers are welcome in this community.”
Mitty woke up from his dream just as the election results were coming in. “I should be able to have a dream where at least I’d know if I won or not,” he grumbled as he climbed out of bed.
The reason he couldn’t let go of that dream, he realized, was that it pictured what he wanted his home town to look like—in an ideal world. So, three days later at the Saturday morning men’s breakfast at the Main Café he shared his dream with the eight men seated around the big round table in the back of the dining area.
After Pastor Walt had finished, the first thing out of Dominique’s mouth was, “How are you going to pay for it, Pastor?”
“Sounds like socialism,” added Asch. “Too liberal for the old-time residents.”
Just when he thought that no one even resonated with his dream, Eric Anderson smiled and said, “I’d vote for you. I mean if you really did run for mayor like in your dream.”
Pastor Walt tried to tell himself that the critical comments regarding his dream didn’t bother him, like it was just a discussion starter. That’s all. And, as he walked home his thoughts shifted to how he could make Ash Wednesday meaningful to the few people who would bother to come to church the next week.
What happened, though, is that Ryan Becker posted what he remembered of his pastor’s dream on Facebook and, by Sunday, it had received 57 hits.
When Sharissa Hawkins walked into church Sunday, she gave Mitty a big hug and exclaimed, “Right on, Pastor. What you saw in your dream is what I’ve been advocating for 20 years.”
Before the pastor of Poplar Park Community Church could protest that it was just a dream and not a political agenda, Carla Hernandez from the Suburban Coalition for the Homeless walked in the door and, like Sharissa, gave Mitty a big hug. “I’m not a member of your church,” she said with excitement, “but when I saw your dream on Facebook I said to myself, ‘I have to go and hear that man preach!'”
What he got from the next person, however, was a cold shoulder rather than a hug. He wasn’t surprised that Hilda Hossenbrenner had not resonated with his dream. At 80 years old, Hilda was not on Facebook, but her grandchildren were, and they had described in detail what her pastor had shared at the Main Café.
On Monday, Mitty learned through the grape vine that Hilda was telling church members on her landline—she was one of two or three people in town who still didn’t have a smart phone—that her pastor didn’t know his Bible, that he was preaching a pie in the sky, liberal delusion. “Right there in the third chapter of the whole Bible,” she was telling anyone who would listen, “it says that Adam and Eve sinned. People just won’t act nicey-nice and they sure won’t want to pay the increased taxes that would be needed to fund all those new initiatives he dreamed of.”
Mrs. Hossenbrenner’s comments somehow got on Facebook too and that sparked a social media debate on human nature.
One comment came from author Mark Nepo’s recent best seller “More Together than Alone.” “In the transformation from the solitary to the communal, there’s a mysterious physics that each generation has to relearn regarding what is possible when we can work together.”
Bernie Rolvaag responded to that by commenting, “Mysterious physics? My bookstore has eight different books documenting the FACT that every utopian attempt to create heaven on earth has failed.”
One comment read simply, “Bernie in 2020.”
Another responded, “If Bernie is nominated, Trump will win a second term. Most people are not as far left as Sanders is.”
Pastor Mitty still hadn’t finished his Ash Wednesday sermon when he went to bed last night. All day yesterday he had been distracted. Instead of planning what he would say at the service today, he kept going back to Facebook to read the rapidly growing number of comments.
The text he was basing his sermon was the classic reading from Joel 2:12:
“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.”
And he couldn’t for the life of him see how a call for individual repentance had anything to do with creating a just and equitable society. Or, a voice inside him kept saying, was any attempt to create heaven on earth doomed to do just the opposite?
After finally falling asleep last night, Mitty had the exact same dream that he had the week before except that this time everyone in the dream, himself included, had black smudges on their foreheads.