Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Langston Hughes

There’s something about airports and stale coffee that makes me contemplative. A few years back, while thumbing through a decade-old in-flight magazine (and trying not to think about the questionable stains on the seat next to me), I stumbled upon a poem by Langston Hughes called “Dreams.” I wasn’t expecting to find poetry in those pages, but life’s like that, isn’t it? Offering nuggets of wisdom when you least expect it—like finding a Picasso at a garage sale.

Hughes says:

“Hold fast to dreams / For if dreams die / Life is a broken-winged bird / That cannot fly.”

It’s as if he’s talking to every weary traveler, every disgruntled employee on a Monday morning, and even to those daring individuals who attempt karaoke after just one drink.

Dreams aren’t those things that visit us in sleep (where you’re suddenly onstage, and inexplicably, your high school Spanish teacher is there, and oh, by the way, you’re only in your underwear), but rather those aspirations and hopes we tuck away, often forgetting them like that mystery Tupperware in the back of the fridge.

To let go of dreams is like going through life with a perpetually fogged-up pair of glasses. The world’s still there, but it’s all a bit blurry, and you’re forever squinting, missing out on the vivid details.

His next lines?

“Hold fast to dreams / For when dreams go / Life is a barren field / Frozen with snow.”

Barren fields, to me, sound about as inviting as passing on a sun-soaked beach day or forgoing sitting on the patio in the fall, sipping Piscola, and reminiscing with Shelley.

If dreams are the colorful thread weaving through the fabric of our lives, to lose them would be to watch the world fade to grayscale, like a vintage photograph left in the sun.

This is why I love poetry. It has the power to take a simple thought and distill it into a profound truth that’s more awakening than a double espresso. We all need dreams—whether they’re grand visions like penning the next great American novel or simpler joys like solving the Wordle on your second try (because it’s not possible on your first try, I don’t believe all your lies).

In the grand theater of life, where our metaphorical glasses might fog up and blur our vision, Hughes hands us a gentle reminder: clutch onto those dreams. For they aren’t just flights of fancy but the very essence that infuses our days with color, depth, and direction.

So, wherever you are, whatever stained seat you find yourself in, remember to “Hold Fast to Dreams.” Because without them, we’re merely adrift, seeking direction in a vast and boundless sky.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.