A Real Life ‘Ugly Duckling'

When she walked out on the stage, the audience just sneered at her. The judges rolled their eyes.

She was forty-eight years old, by her own admission "never been married, never been kissed". She was unemployed and "still looking". Her hair frankly, was a mess. Her bushy eyebrows reminded one powerfully of a forest. She was frumpy at best and her dress looked like something my mother used to wear back in the sixties.

She'd been singing since she was twelve years old she told us, and she'd always wanted to sing in front of a large audience. After she pranced out onto the stage and did a weird little jig - she was really quite eccentric you know - one of the judges asked her what she dreamed of becoming.

"A professional singer", she answered. The judges and the audience were incredulous.

"And why hasn't it worked out for you so far?" one of the judges asked. They all poked fun at her. They were brutal. But she stood her ground.

Again, one of the judges enquired: "What are you going to sing for us tonight?"

"I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables," she answered.

And on her thumbs up, the audio technician pressed the button. The music began to play. She opened her mouth and began to sing … and we were all utterly gob-smacked!

She sang with the voice of an angel! She sang with the power and the poise and the presence of a diva who'd graced the great opera stages of the world all her life. Words fail me in describing her performance that night.

She brought the house down. Her name of course, is Susan Boyle. The show was "Britain's Got Talent" in 2009. And within just a few weeks over 100 million people had watched this video clip on YouTube on the Internet.

100 million!

Now I've watched that video - it's just seven minutes and seven seconds long. I've watched it online several times now and not once have I finished with a dry eye.

The world wanted to judge this book by its cover, but before she walked out on stage she told the interviewer "I'm going to make this audience rock!"

No one believed her - no one believed her - until she opened her mouth to sing these words from the stunning musical Les Misérables. I can only write them, I can't sing them to you the way she did, but let the lyrics do their work in your heart anyway:

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life was worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.

Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted.
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted.

But the tigers came at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame.

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Those beautiful words touch us deep inside somewhere, because they are the story of many a life. We start off with dreams about who we'll be and what we'll do. And when we're young, they tend to be bold dreams. Noble dreams. Dreams that find their roots somewhere deep down in our DNA - dreams about living a life that somehow, we're meant to live.

And so often those dreams are crushed. Crushed by the cares of this world. Crushed by the sneers of a crowd that doesn't believe in us. There is perhaps no tragedy more crushing than when life has killed the dream I dreamed.

And so many a man and many a women woke up this morning to face yet another day, in the knowledge that they're not living the life that they're meant to be living. For some it's a sharp pain. For others, a dull ache. For most of us though … it's buried so deep, we've almost forgotten. But it's still there … the knowledge that we're not living the dreams we once had for our lives.