I learned about wishes over a birthday cake when I was five or six candles old. My unspoken desire was probably a toy; spinning tops were popular then. By my teenage years, I’d switched targets to pimples. That wish took a while longer to come true.
And then wishing subsided. There was no place in adult life for them; isn’t that the domain of dreams?
But I see a difference now; it’s been there all along.
Dreams are extroverts, eyes ahead on some distant horizon, making plans, imagining. Yet unlike the introverted wishes, dreams have very little to do with consoling. At their best moments, wishes speak to universal hopes, and in that sense they’re much larger than dreams.
Too often, unfortunately, they’re offered after an unpleasant fact of life—“I wish we hadn’t done such and such.” Where does that dubious list begin? Or end? Manzanar? Montgomery? My Lai?
Here is my simple wish—That while we dream of better worlds (where easing hunger is of more concern than hedge fund profits), there will always be those who remain alert to the times we are at our worst, and keep us from falling.