Friday, July 24, 2009


After watching an interview with Susan Boyle the other night, I went back to YouTube and watched, for the umpteenth time, her one-moment-in-a-lifetime rendition of "I dreamed a dream" on Britain's Got Talent. As often as I've seen it, it never fails to grab me by the heart, and I didn't have to think too hard to figure out why.

Susan Boyle, 48 years old, plain as a potato chip, born after a difficult delivery during which her brain was deprived of oxygen resulting in a mild degree of learning difficulties in later life, teased in school for being "different," one of ten children, who devoted her life to caring for her mother until the older woman died two years ago, then living alone in a very small village with her cat....this common, ordinary woman walked onto a huge stage wearing a simple yellow dress she'd bought for one of her nephews' wedding, to face a cruelly snickering audience and the barely-concealed scorn of the show's judges, and opened her mouth to sing.

At that instant, Susan Boyle became me, and ten million other plain, ordinary, looked-past/looked-through men and women of any and all ages who long to be more than they are. And she sang. And she picked us all up, almost bodily, and carried us to a special place we are seldom privileged to visit. In that instant, Susan Boyle was the personification of Hope, and we felt that if she could do something so wonderful, perhaps we all might have it within ourselves to do something equally worthy and uplifting. Even her choice of song was perfection: who among us has not "dreamed a dream"?

I feared when she next appeared on stage that she might have set herself up for a fall...not through anything she might do, but simply because her first appearance was one of those brief moments of wonder that could never possibly be repeated. Just as Neil Armstrong could never take another first step on the moon, so even Susan could not hope to exceed what she accomplished that night.

There are many "impact moments" in history...moments burned into our psyche, and most of them, unfortunately, are of unspeakable horror and sadness. The fall of the World Trade Center was the emotional equivalent of being hit head-on by a speeding train. It shattered us, not only as individuals but as a nation. The deaths of public figures we feel we have come to know personally have a great effect on many people. We are constantly assailed by negativity which only reinforces our sense of being powerless and hopeless.

But there are moments when, in the deathly silence of a burned-over forest, a bird sings; when ordinary people under terrible situations do marvelous things which show us that there is indeed hope for humanity. Goodness and beauty often rise from tragedy.

But for an ordinary woman, on an ordinary stage of an ordinary television program, on an ordinary day not clouded by tragedy or despair, to be able to sing for us all and give us all hope is simply extraordinary and never to be forgotten.

Thank you, Susan.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back...and bring a friend. Your comments are always welcome. And you're invited to stop by my website at, or drop me a note at

No comments: