I don't know how many of you have seen the video of Susan Boyle, the much hailed and seemingly unlikely contestant highlighted in the media this week who auditioned for "Britain's Got Talent". If you have not (and if not you must be the only person in the US or Britain who has not), you must check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lp0IWv8QZY .
I've watched this video a couple of times now, and it brought me to tears each time. Here is a 47 year old so-called "dowdy, unattractive spinster" singing as beautifully as if she were a Broadway star. Was it the "Underdog Factor" that touched my heart? Was it her impressive talent? Was it the audience reaction?
As I sit here writing this, I realize that sadly it is none of the above. What moved me to tears was the lack of dignity that humans often treat other humans with, whether they have an unexpected gift or not. Why did this woman have to stand in front of that audience and initially be ridiculed and laughed at? Why do we humans love to make fun of others simply because they are not "polished" or one of the "beautiful people"? Let's face it, the world is filled with average, ordinary Susan Boyles. The ratio of "Beautiful People" to "Ordinary" or even "Less-Than-Ordinary People" is stunningly tilted to the side of the average Joe, or in this case the average Susan. So why then are those of us who are in that same category with Susan the ones who are most likely to be the ones who laugh the loudest, who jeer and roll our eyes the most? Is it our own insecurity with ourselves that causes us to lash out at others with unkindness? Are we afraid to see our own ordinariness reflected back at us in the faces of others?
While I loved seeing the audience and judges reactions after this "dowdy" woman opened up her mouth and sang like a seasoned professional, I wondered if any in the audience felt a sense of shame at their initial reaction...if a lesson was learned as the folded up their seats and walked out of that auditorium that evening.
And I pose the question to you all, what gifts of others in our lives have not been shared with the world because the world has dehumanized someone so badly that they wither away, their talent wasted and left unknown to all? What wonderful poets or artists have never been discovered because they refused to make themselves into someone they are not to pursue fame? What gifted authors and musicians never had their voices or instruments heard because they had been derided unmercifully and lost all confidence in themselves, simply because they didn't fit the image of what others felt they should look or act like? What have we all lost because of relentless categorization and impossible expectations?
Or better yet, another question to be asked is this: Does Susan Boyle's value as a human being suddenly rise because her talent is now discovered? Or was her worth as a human being recognized prior to her performance? How sad to think that there are so many of us who would look at her before and after her performance and would find ourselves treating her differently after hearing her sing...as if her mere existence on this planet didn't earn her the right to be treated with dignity and care.
I see myself in Susan Boyle (sans the talent) and perhaps you see yourself in her as well. We are all just doing our best to make it through one day at a time in this world. Perhaps we too are dowdy, overweight, unglamorous...we are imperfect in so many ways. And yet inside each and every one of us is a song waiting to be presented to the world. It may be a figurative song and not a literal one, but despite our failings real or imagined, we each are worthwhile, we each deserve to be treated with dignity, we each want nothing more than to walk through the world and be accepted for who we are...even if we are not one of the "beautiful people".
While we all applaud Susan's stunning and surprising performance, I hope that those who have viewed it will take a moment to think about those who live on the fringes of our lives, those folks who are outcasts for one reason or another, those whose quirks or appearance cause us to put them down in a pathetic attempt to lift ourselves up by comparison. Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, from the down-and-out guy on Skid Row to the cat-loving oddball spinster whom we all have run across at one point in time in our life or another. God created us all, and we were wonderfully and fearfully made. Yes, even those of us who are not attractive or gifted with tremendous talent should be seen as being human with a spirit that can be crushed just as easily as yours can.
We should carry the hearts of others carefully sheltered in the palms of our hands, for when we do that we symbolically carry God around in this world to be experienced by others. Yes, it is we who are God's hands and feet here on earth, and if God can look at Susan Boyle...or Cindy LaJoy...and say "I love you, my child, you are beautiful just the way I made you!!!" then perhaps we can find it within us to do the same. And if we can manage to do so, perhaps we become a bit more beautiful ourselves on the inside, where it really counts.
God Bless you, Susan Boyle. God Bless all who snickered and doubted. We are all human with all that brings with it...may we all strive to do better at being human.