Chill bumps and tears; lots and lots of tears. That is how I reacted when I watched the video clip of Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed a Dream” on the British television show Britain’s Got Talent. Boyle’s audition for the show was recorded in January of this year in Glasgow, Scotland, and her performance was aired a couple of weeks ago on April 11. Since then, it is estimated that over 100 million people worldwide have viewed her stirring rendition of the song on YouTube.

Boyle strode non-elegantly onto the stage and stumbled awkwardly through her introductory dialogue with the judges. The camera swept through the audience and found people rolling their eyes and shaking their heads in disbelief as this rather frumpy, middle-aged woman spoke of her aspirations of becoming a professional singer. The atmosphere in the auditorium was thick with skepticism, with trace amounts of pity and embarrassment thrown in as well. Or so it was until the backing tape began and Boyle began to sing. In the mere span of two bars of the song, jaws went slack, eyes welled up with tears, and the crowd rose to its feet with thunderous applause, both in appreciation for Boyle’s remarkable gift and in shame for their own shallowness and superficiality in judging another human being solely by her appearance. Even Simon Cowell, infamous for his cynicism and biting sarcasm, was won over by the clarity, purity, and power of her voice.

When will we ever learn! When will I ever learn! Having a disabled son has greatly sensitized me to how quickly and cruelly people can cast a look, make a face, or utter some inane comment (don’t get me started!) just because someone looks or acts a little differently than “normal,” whatever that is. Yet, I still walked right into the “Boyle Trap” with everyone else. I was so proud of her, and so ashamed of myself. My Savior has tried to teach me, “Don’t judge according to appearance” (John 7:24). God had to explain to Samuel that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). I don’t know about you, but I am still trying to “get it.”

As moved as I was by Susan Boyle’s performance, I later wondered how I and others would feel about her if she couldn’t sing a note. Does she only have value to us as a person now because of her amazing talent, because of what she can do, and do extremely well? What about her intrinsic value as a person created in the image of God, a person who bravely endured bullying and name-calling in school, and a person who lovingly cared for her mother until her death two years ago at the age of 91. “Lord, please help me; help me to get it!”

(Tim’s BA bulletin article, 4-26-09)

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