I got to know Larry Johnson when he was an interim pastor at a congregation where I was a member while serving as the Executive Director an outdoor ministry in La Grange, Texas. He’s long since gone home to Minnesota, where he’s been pursuing the dream he’s had since childhood. I’ve since retired and moved to Houston, pursing the dream I’ve had since childhood to write more frequently.
Guest blog by Larry Johnson, Founder of Everyone’s Table.
There are many different words people have used to describe me over the years, but I think the most accurate word was applied to me by my father when I was very young. He called me “a dreamer.” I continue to have many interests, am curious about a number of things, and always wanting to learn more about whatever is piquing my interest at the moment.
I read a lot–well over 100 books a year. In order to do that, I have had to learn how to say “no” to other demands for my time and attention, so I can say “yes” to my reading, and other learning opportunities which provide the basis for knowledge in pursuing my current dream. I have said “no” to watching TV, attending professional sporting events, and extensive travel, so I could say “yes” to living a childhood dream for the last 11 years.
Shattered Childhood Dream
My childhood dream was shattered when my grandfather was killed in a car-train accident on his way out of town to the farm. I was in 7th grade at the time. It was a school day or, most likely I would have been with him. My life took a different direction after that and it was not until I took an early retirement that I was able to revive that dream to become a farmer. Without my grandfather to guide me, I had a lot of learning to do. My wife and I relied on other farmers for help and advice. We read extensively about raising cattle, sheep, chickens, pigs, goats, ducks, and turkeys to decide what we wanted to raise.
We had to learn how to do fencing as well as what types of buildings and the kind of equipment we needed. Since we wanted to provide as much of our own food as possible by gardening and planting a fruit orchard, even more learning was required. This was also true for raising honey bees and making maple syrup. We heat with wood and solar panels provide us with electricity. We weren’t successful at everything we did, but we had fun learning and experimenting. When we started–we basically knew nothing and while we have learned a lot over the years, I like to say that we now know next to nothing–because there is always so much more to learn.
Pursue a New Dream
This past year I realized that I had fulfilled my childhood dream and was ready to pursue a new dream but it took me a while to discover what that dream would be. The area in which we live is one of the economically poorest in the state of Minnesota; we have a higher rate of substance abuse than adjoining counties; we have a significant number of people who are homeless and many others live with food insecurity and a lack of transportation. More than half the students in our school are on free or reduced fees for their lunch. We have a backpack program where kids can take home food for the weekend from school when in all likelihood they would have had to go without.
My new dream focuses on social justice and the health and well being of our rural area. In order to do that, I have had to say “no” to many of the things I had been doing so I could focus my time and attention on initiating a free community meal program twice a month called Everyone’s Table. We served 110 people at our last meal with 18 volunteers assisting with food preparation, serving and clean-up in the basement of a local church.
I was recently appointed as an at large director to our Hospital District Board. I serve as a mentor and coach to pastors experiencing difficult situations in their places of ministry. In the coming year, I will be serving as a part-time interim pastor using my special gifts in conflict management. My most recent learning opportunity was an all day workshop called Mental Health First Aid which I have been recommending to just about everyone I have been in conversation with since.
Pursuing Another Childhood Dream
One of my childhood dreams was to be a writer and for the last 11 years I have sent out a newsletter to family and friends nearly every month sharing our life adventures. In order to write more extensively and develop my writing skills, I will need to carve out some time each day in order to accomplish that. I will need to say “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to it. Most likely, I will be reading less and altering my routine to do so. When one has a passion for a dream, it becomes necessary to set limits on other activities, no matter how good and beneficial they might be, in order to move from pursuing the dream to living the dream.
Best wishes to you all in the pursuit and living of your dreams.
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