April 19, 2009
You’ve Got Talent
The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
Since Susan Boyle's audition on the April 11th edition of the television show 'Britain's Got Talent,' over fifty million people have watched a video of her performance. In the last few days, I have spoken about Susan Boyle to people ranging from age sixteen to eighty-six, and they are all equally moved by the experience of watching her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Miserables. How can we understand the universal effect this video has in uplifting the souls of so many?
Last week I wrote about how fear and the possibility for new life go hand-in-hand whenever we risk stepping outside of our "comfort zones." Ms. Boyle could not be a better example of this, having courageously stepped through her fears and discovered new possibilities for her life that previously she could only have dreamt about. Her courage to take this risk is certainly one of the reasons we find ourselves inspired by what she has done.
I think another reason she inspires us is that she embodies another attribute that is all too rare these days: she is authentic. There is no pretense to her. The only person she is trying to be like is herself, and for many that is the hardest person of all to be like. This true self is the container for her God-given musical talent, and is what makes her such an inspiring performer. The harder someone in the entertainment world works to create a persona that showcases their "talent," the less that talent is authentic; just like 'real' versus 'fake' people in our lives. True talent, just like the true self, doesn't have to try hard to be anything other than what it is. When Ms. Boyle was a child, the other kids at school would make fun of her by calling her "Simple Susan." How ironic then that her simplicity has turned out to be one of her greatest gifts.
"Britain's Got Talent," showed the world that Susan Boyle's "got talent." There are two lessons (at least) for us here when it comes to the topic of personal and family wellness. The first lesson is that Susan Boyle has "got talent," but so the rest of us. I believe that there is a spark of divinity in every one of us. Our life quest is to blow on that spark so that our divinely given talents can be a source of light and inspiration to all around us. Two thousand years ago a very wise man told a parable of about the reward that comes from taking risks to expand the talents that we have been given. He also taught that if we only seek to protect our talents, to hide them under a bushel, we will in fact lose them in the end.
The second lesson for family wellness that I take from the Susan Boyle experience is that without "Britain's Got Talent," there would not be a story. Susan needed a showcase and an audience for her talent and the show provided it. So it is for each of us: we need others to be the audience that will support and celebrate our talents. This is the role of our families. It is the role of our friendships. It is the role of our marriages. It is the role of parents. It is the role of our churches and synagogues, of ideally our workplaces. We all need fans to cheer us on, especially when we are taking those fearful steps outside of our comfort zones to blow on those divine sparks within.
As each of us dares to risk revealing our authentic gifts and talents to one another, I don't expect that most of us will end up on YouTube, watched by millions as we fulfill our potential. I do expect that we will play to rave reviews by the audience that means the most: our friends and family. May we all have the good fortune to experience that sense of finding our true selves, and of exploring our full potential as we are cheered on by those we care about.