persons, places and things: A song of hope

Barb Arland-Fye

By Barb Arland-Fye

One thing a parent of a child with a disability longs for is acceptance of that child and success in whatever way possible. The child wants that, too.

YouTube videos have captured for wide audiences phenomenal stories of people with disabilities achieving successes in spite of significant challenges.

Whose eyes don’t tear up watching a teenager with Down syndrome score a pivotal basket in the last basketball game of his high school years?

The triumphs thrill all of us, not just the unique individual’s loved ones. It’s at the heart of what makes us human.


Now millions have watched the YouTube video featuring Susan Boyle, a 47-year-old Scottish woman whose appearance and behavior belied the stunning beauty within.

This faith-filled Roman Catholic — reported to have learning disabilities — captivated a derisive audience and the judges on “Britain’s Got Talent” with her sublime performance of “I Dreamed the Dream” from the musical “Les Miserables.”

Boyle told the judges and audience before her performance earlier this month that she wanted to be a professional singer like England’s Elaine Paige. The judges and audience were incredulous — until Boyle started singing.

“Everyone was laughing at you. No one is laughing now. That was stunning, an incredible performance,” Piers Morgan, one of three judges on Britain’s Got Talent told Boyle afterward.

 “I am so thrilled because I know everybody was against you,” Amanda Holden, another judge said. “I honestly think we were all being very cynical. It was the biggest wake-up call ever. I just want to say that it was a privilege listening to this,” Holden added.

The judges’ unanimous approval of Boyle’s performance means she gets to compete again, a thrilling reality that brought her to tears.

She has told interviewers her performance was a tribute to her late mother, who encouraged her to sing. The skeptics are weighing in now, saying she’s doomed because of the intense publicity and instant stardom. Time will tell.

What fills me with so much hope is that God rewarded the perseverance of both the singer and her mother. Forty-seven years, and they never gave up.

Boyle’s inspiring story brings to mind another one, of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, who prayed for years for her son to change his ways. Ultimately, he became one of the greatest theologians in the church. St. Monica’s faith and perseverance inspires my own. 

Years ago, I attended a national conference on autism at which adults with the disability shared stories of overcoming the challenges I was witnessing in my own pre-school-age son with autism. The hope they inspired in me is beyond description. God sent me to that conference at a time when I needed it most.

Tears welled in my eyes as I listened to Boyle sing and watched the reaction of the judges and audience to her performance on Britain’s Got Talent.

Just because a person has a disability doesn’t mean he or she is without dreams, desires or ambitions. No matter what lies ahead, Boyle has received affirmation and acceptance and that gives her hope. And that’s what I desire most for my first-born son.

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