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Be cautious – certain dreams might become reality

Column by Jim Bishop

“Dreamin’ . . . I’m always dreamin’ …
’til my dreamin’ comes true …”
– Johnny Burnette (1960)

“The rest of your life begins today.”

Another simple, yet profound statement on the sign in front of Weavers Mennonite Church along U.S. 33 grabbed my attention. I hadn’t thought of this truism in quite that way before.

Maybe the point hit me where I live because I’d just turned another year older. Or, I was already wrestling with the realization that our days are numbered as I keep reading obituaries in the paper of persons much younger than me.

We’re all on a journey with a degree of certainty – we’re alive and kicking, facing some of the same issues and decisions, struggling to make ends meet in the face of skyrocketing living costs. At some point, our allotted time on this granite planet expires and, ready or not, we move on to the great hereafter.

When that eventuality will occur, none of us knows, but hopefully our purpose, as Mark Twain so aptly put it, is to “Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt; sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Life is tough, capricious and fraught with unexpected side treks, hiccups and misgivings. But, part of the excitement, for me, is navigating the twists and turns of life’s passages and having certain experiences that I never expected in my most grandiose dreams to come to fruition.

For example: high-school experience was a good period of my life, but going on to college wasn’t part of the picture for this C-average student who excelled in extracurricular activities.

I recall the day whoen one of my buddies, Jerry Troester, and I had a day off were given a day off during our senior year to take a battery of tests that supposedly would provide insight into what vocations would best fit our innate abilities, including manual dexterity.

The results surprised me. I was best suited for work of an assembly-line nature, putting things together or packaging items for shipping, the report said.

Really? I already knew that anything that required following an instruction manual made me lose my grip, mentally and literally. Thoughts of pursuing a long-term career in my part-time job at a local drive-through car wash sounded like a good alternative at that point.

How thankful I am that as the summer of 1963 waned, I decided to check whether a certain school, then Eastern Mennonite College, would have me. It became the place that rearranged my life.

Over those four years, I made life-long friendships, met my life’s companion (a calming, stabilizing influence on me then and now), sharpened values and priorities and opened the door to a career opportunity that helped focus my life’s calling in the journalism field.

From junior-high days on, I carried on a love affair with the radio and envisioned myself as a pilot of the airwaves, spinning platters and cultivating listeners who would dote on every golden intonation.

I was told early on to forget this passion. I didn’t have what it took, voice-wise or otherwise, to make it into this competitive arena, and maybe they were right. But, I never discarded the dream, and these many years later I host a weekly ’50s music show on WEMC-FM, an “EMU Activities Report” on WBTX-AM and a monthly “Warped Records” show with Jim Britt on WSVA and lovin’ it.

Who would have thought, back in that formidable decade of the 1960s, that Anna and I would put down roots in Harrisonburg, Va., live at the same adequate abode since 1971, raise two daughters here and see them marry and start families of their own. And, the best part of this life stage – doting on grandchildren. One can’t really appreciate that until it happens.

I also recognize that several aspirations haven’t been realized, and perhaps they never will: Completing a graduate degree that I started in the early 1980s, seeing the USA in my Chevrolet (or, preferably by rail) and writing a book, or at least compiling a “best of” collection of columns (a slim volume?) from the past 18 years bound together with a narrative. I ask myself on occasion what is preventing me from pursuing these elusive goals.

My lines have indeed fallen in pleasant places. I feel unworthy, marvel at opportunities afforded me over the years and try to be an appreciative and worthy steward of the capabilities entrusted to me.

Indeed, for each of us, the rest of our life begins today. What are we doing in that sacred space between today and eternity?


Jim Bishop is the public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be reached at