Empty Lot

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Look at the photo and tell me what you see. This isn’t a test, so let me help you discern what you’re eyes register. Pay close attention, because I’m about to take you on a journey.

What you see before you is an empty lot, in the city of Detroit; Preston St between McDougall St and Elmwood St, to be exact. Behind the lush green grass in the foreground, you see a cluster of medium sized leafless trunks parting to either side, as they slowly die. Behind the cluster are two taller trees growing in tandem, up, up, up, extending outside the frame of the photo. Deep in the background, you see unkempt foliage growing. This could be any lot, on any street, on the east side of this once thriving town. Now, it’s clear that this part of town is dead; seemingly useful for nothing more than empty lots and burned down husks of houses that once served as homes for generations. Today, I stood in front of this lot and snapped the picture. It reminded me of…lost dreams.

Everyone has a dream. Every man, at some point in life, has pictured himself doing something else. It doesn’t matter if you are working a day job or you’re patiently waiting for God to work a miracle; you’ve pictured yourself someplace other than where you are every day of your normal life. For a lot of people, that dream translates to hope for a better and brighter future. Unfortunately, many dreamers default on the dream as life deals its curve balls.

I’ll bet once upon a time, there was a plan for our empty Preston St lot. I can see someone envisioning a large house erected on that lot. It would be one of many houses built in the community, that would someday become a home to a growing family. Now here’s the inside scoop. There are abandoned houses on that particular stretch of block, so I think it’s safe to assume that the dream came true for someone. I can imagine a home sitting on that plot of land, in the past. But something happened; the dream deferred. Maybe the property taxes swallowed the income. Maybe the original owners sold to some unscrupulous characters. Maybe the last tenants passed away, leaving an eye sore. Whatever the case may have been, the house was demolished, and the land was leveled. Over time, nature took its course. The grass grew in and the trees grew wild. The original dream passed away due to the circumstances of life and time.

I wonder if I have any aspiring musicians who are reading right now? If so, we’ll use you as our example. You know what it feels like to pour your heart and soul into your style of music. That’s the dream you’re following. You can see the day coming, when all your hard efforts pay off; the world sits up and takes notice of your extraordinary talents, and welcomes you into the fray, with opened arms and blank checks. You chase that dream as if tomorrow is just within reach. But no one seems to understand your sound the way you do. No one gets you. Time goes by, and you hear all sorts of music styles and genres come and go; some good, some bad.

“When’s it gonna be my turn,” you ask yourself.

Time marches on. The question comes fewer and farther between the realities of earning a living for food and utilities, and raising a family, for those who have one. My friend, you’re staring at the photo of the empty lot. You look at that plot of land and daydream of what might have been. And just maybe, if you’re an optimist, you wonder what might still become of that lot. Can you see it? Do you feel it in your heart, as you stare at the photo?

Let me tell you what I saw as I stood there looking into that lot. But first, let’s revisit the music.

There are times when I personally feel so close to a breakthrough in my writing and music, that I can taste the sweet tinge of success in the air. It’s like walking through the city in the morning, and catching a whiff of the bakery. You can’t see the bread cooking, but you know you’re really close to it. You can practically taste it. If only someone would cut you a break and open the door, to let you in, once you’ve found the building. That’s the feeling I speak of. Its so close and yet, so far out of reach.

This morning, I was listening to a duet by Lecrae and Kari Jobe called, “Broken”; two powerhouses in the Christian music world. One’s a rapper. The other’s a singer. They come from two totally separate styles of music, but they came together to make an awesome song for his latest album. I thought to myself, “Man, if only I had the chance to show that I could make a difference in that business. What must it be like to worship the Lord beside either one of these two, doing something I love?”

That’s when I looked out over the empty lot. What I saw through the cleft formed by the tree cluster, was a secret entrance. A door to a world I only dream of. I imagined a building just behind those tall trees, completely invisible to the naked eye, but very much there. Those tall trees are nothing more than an elevator to different floors inside the building of success. What floor you stop on depends on your commitment to the dream. I found the hidden door! The only thing I need to do is start knocking until someone lets me in.

I think in order to see your dreams fulfilled, you have to have a certain level of tenacity about you. You have to be able to see the opportunities where everyone else sees only dead ends. You have to have imagination and faith. You have to have patience. Lecrae wasn’t always the biggest name in Christian rap. He saw something no one else saw, and he went after it, unwaveringly. He kept knocking on that secret door, most aspiring musicians only dream of. Eventually, someone let him in.

Dreams die like the empty lot, when we lose our vision for something greater. But the dream can be resurrected if we hold fast to vision. In my case, God plays a significant role in my vision. He won’t let me quit trying, even when I want to. You look at the photo and see an empty lot overrun by green. I look at the lot and imagine a huge skyscraper. In the windows, I see people who are onto the next leg of the dream, waving and encouraging me to keep searching for the hidden door. Though unseen, success is right in front of me.

Don’t quit. Even when it seems like the dream is dying right before your eyes, you can’t give up on yourself. Look beyond the sight of your eyes and see the vision with your heart. Turn your empty lot into a skyscraper of success, just waiting for you to find its door. If you find that door and start knocking, eventually someone will let you in.

I think I’m gonna find that bakery tomorrow. Fresh bread would make a good breakfast. I’m just sayin’…

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