Not Just A Pipe Dream
According to Webb Garrison in his book WHY YOU SAY IT (Rutledge Hill Press, 1992), the term "pipe dream" has its origins in the 19th century. The drug opium was imported into Europe from Asia and was widely used in certain literary circles in Britain. Opium was smoked in a pipe and, once under the influence, people had hallucinations that were referred to as pipe dreams. So today, an unrealistic or impractical idea may be quickly discounted as a pipe dream.
But not all seemingly impossible or far-fetched ideas are merely pipe dreams. A case in point is the dream millionaire Eugene Lang gave to high school students in the impoverished neighborhood in which he was raised. Addressing a class of eighth-graders in the South Bronx, Lang threw away his prepared speech. The empty eyes of the students in attendance told him they were not interested in his "motivational" talk. Their neighborhood had become a battlefield of poverty, drugs and gangs, and a breeding ground of despair. About 80% of them would not complete high school. Few would ever leave the neighborhood. Fewer still would climb out of poverty. That is why Mr. Lang tossed aside his speech. The students didn't need a speech; they needed a dream.
Then, the words that came from Eugene Lang's mouth may have even astonished him! "If you graduate from high school," he told the youth, "I will send you to college." Send you to college!
For the next four years he worked with the school and kept the dream alive. And the results were phenomenal: all but two of the 60 teenagers finished high school! True to his word, he sent them to college. "He gave us hope," one student said, no doubt speaking for the majority. Another one of the students, upon meeting Lang later, said to him, "Mr. Lang, we did the impossible."
Not every seemingly unrealistic idea is a pipe dream. When that beautiful dream is combined with hard work and great expectation, then the impossible can be achieved. For when you believe enough in that magnificent dream, most anything can happen.