Fireflies flying out of an open jarSummer always reminds me of childhood when I would play outside with friends until dusk and beyond. On many evenings when the light faded, the soft glow of fireflies pulled us from whatever game we’d made up and shifted the activity to chasing the magical creatures. To catch a firefly you needed that ideal mixture of darkness and light: dark enough to zero in when one lit up, but still light enough to follow it once the glow faded.

One night when the fireflies were unusually dense, we scattered throughout the yard to capture them with gentle swipes of cupped hands. I ran inside for an old jar with a lid and after thirty minutes, the curved glass glowed with a living treasure. We all perched on the concrete steps behind my house to marvel at the beauty of lightning in a jar. We stayed, mesmerized, until the neighborhood began to echo with parents’ voices, a magical event in itself that led to kids disappearing one by one into the darkness. When it was my turn, I took the jar inside and placed it on my dresser where I later fell asleep to a nightlight only nature could create.

When I awoke the next morning and my sleepy eyes came to rest on the jar, my excitement reignited. But it withered fast when I moved closer to stare at a bunch of dead bugs. Before me was a valuable lesson:

Fireflies don’t thrive in jars. They need air and open space. They need to be free so kids can chase them into the night.

Isn’t it the same with the dreams each of us have? How many of us, as we age, place those dreams in airtight jars and stuff them on a shelf where they’re pretty to look at, but will never survive. Our dreams are living things that need air and open space to thrive. They need to be thrown into the sky from cupped hands so they can fly on their own while we chase them to exotic destinations. They were never meant to be knick-knacks gathering dust on a crowded shelf where only we can see them.

Luckily, dreams are hardier than fireflies. No matter how much time has passed, you owe it to yourself to find that jar and rip the top off. Set your dreams free.

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