Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Two Mediocrities Who Were Not . . . in a World Where Too Many Allow Mediocrity to Destroy So Much Greatness

England has a TV show comparable to "American Idol” – you may even recognize one of the panelists . . . – called “Britain’s Got Talent.” One or two years ago they had a plain-looking middle-aged cell-phone salesman on, and everyone in the audience got ready for a good laugh, the lesser side of the societal bell curve. And then he sang:

Recently, a 47-year-old “plain-Jane” got on the stage, and you again perceive the audience and panel gearing up for a laugh and some vicious banter. And then she sang:

So unexpected. So unlikely to succeed. And so utterly great.

There is nothing in the world that holds any of us back from being great, from making a difference in the lives of people around us, from making a difference in the world. We have talents and gifts – each of us – and we are surrounded by people who will support and encourage us to succeed, to believe in ourselves. Hashem puts them in our lives.

Yet we also are surrounded by the mediocrities, the nay-sayers, the negativists, the people who hear us sing . . . or play a musical instrument . . . or who read a poem we have penned . . . or taste a recipe we have cooked . . . and tell us to give up. “You are too old.” “You are too young.” "You just are not that good." "What makes you think that you are better qualified than others?" “What’s the use? What’s the point?” “What are you trying to prove?”

Hashem puts them in our lives, too.

Life is not about trying to prove oneself great. Rather, it is about drawing from the skills and talents, the gifts and dreams that HaKadosh Barukh Hu placed in each and every one of our souls, to be our finest. We read in the Torah of so many mediocrities and nay-sayers around Moshe Rabbeinu who said to him: “What’s the use? We were better off as slaves in Egypt. We had garlics and onions and leeks. We had water. We had a steady field of endeavor.” At every setback they rounded up a choir of grousers to echo: “We told you so. We told you to leave us alone, to let us stay in Egypt.” And after every success – the splitting of the Red Sea, the raining of the monn from heaven, the flowing of water from the rock, the assembling at Har Sinai – they slinked away into their corners, out of sight. We can imagine what they said then: “I never doubted the Sea would split. I never said the food would run out. I never said we would not reach Sinai. Don’t look at me – I never said that.”

And then a new setback – and out came the mediocrities again. “We told you so. See? We told you so.”

But Moshe Rabbeinu proceeded forward.

I listen to Paul Potts and to Susan Boyle, and they are the heroes and an inspiration way beyond their borders and their chosen field of excellence. We all have greatness within us. Each and every one of us has something so extraordinary and great within us. We just have to know how to believe in ourselves, to have the humility to know and understand that nothing succeeds unless HaKadosh Barukh Hu chooses for it to succeed, and that – with His blessings and help – our lives are so preciously important and valuable. No one can take the dream away from you unless you let the mediocrities beat you down.

And if you find yourself surrounded by nay-sayers who would take away that dream, that confidence – well, who has compelled you to surround yourself that way? Find new friends, friends who see your greatness and who encourage you to be great. Take a moment and think back to Paul Potts and Susan Boyle. And then go-ahead and be great.

And you will be.

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