By now I’m assuming that most of you have seen or heard of Susan Boyle, the 47 year old unemployed charity worker from Scotland. She said that she’s never been kissed and lives with her cat in a small village. Unsaid was the fact that she was deprived of oxygen at birth, which resulted in leaning disabilities. At school she was slow and teased for her fuzzy hair. She took care of her father until he died 10 years ago and then of her mother until she passed away 2 years ago. Her singing experiences were limited to church choir and karaoke. A few weeks ago she walked onto the stage of Britain’s Got Talent (the original British version of America’s Got Talent, created by Simon Cowell of American Idol) and shocked the judges, and the world, with her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream from the musical Les Miserables. If you haven’t watched it, please do yourself a favor and double-click on the link bellow. It’ll move you to tears.
Watch the laughing and mockery that she receives from the audience and the judges. It was extremely rude and even cruel of them. But then watch the face of the judges as soon as she starts to sing. Especially Simon Cowell! Their expressions are priceless. I have a soft spot for stories like this because our Presbyterian denomination has roots in Scotland and my singing has also been confined to churches and karaoke… So when are the next America’s Got Talent auditions?
But seriously… though I was moved by the story I resisted making a big deal out of it because I didn’t want to feed into the reason behind her success. Yes, she’s got talent to burn. Yes, she has an amazing voice. But the only reason her story made international headlines (even the Argentinean newspapers covered this story?!?) is because Susan Boyle does not fit the western standard of beauty and success. We love her story because her inner beauty shattered social expectations. The female judge on the show hit the nail right on the head. “This is the biggest wake up call ever.” A wake up call to all of us who have grown accustomed to using outward appearances to judge people.
This video reminds me of the prophet Samuel when he was looking to ordain the next king of Israel. He went to Jesse and asked for his sons and was very excited when he saw strong, young warriors paraded before him. Surely one of these good looking young men could be the next king! Then God gave Samuel his wake up call. “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”” (1 Samuel 16:7). Wake up call indeed!
American Idol has been on the air long enough for all of us to know what happens to those whose physical appearances fall outside of social norms and they are not blessed with a beautiful voice: They are laughed off the stage. Mocked by the judges and then mocked by the media for the sake of entertaining us. The greater wake up call for us is: So what if they don’t fit western standards of beauty? So what if they don’t have bankable talent? So what? Are they not made in the image of the very God we worship? Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, not because of their looks or their skills. Not because of what they can create but because of their Creator. C. S. Lewis put it best in The Weight of Glory:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities… that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal , and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with , work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in sprite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat — the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”