by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

A middle-aged, unassuming and unglamorous woman walks out on the stage and sings before judges, a large audience and millions on television. It’s a talent contest — Britain’s Got Talent — to be specific. And the reaction is surprise and shock when she displays an extraordinary voice.

Since her appearance on the show, her performance has been viewed by more than 100 million on YouTube — making her a global, Internet sensation. In fact, her video is expected to soon become the most viewed YouTube clip of all time. I admit that when I watched her on YouTube, I was captivated, astounded and brought to tears.

But why did I — along with many others — have this reaction?

Did I really believe that only those with beautiful faces and bodies could have beautiful voices? Why shouldn’t it be just as natural for a woman in her late forties to pursue her dream than it is for someone in their twenties?

I think my emotions were aroused as I witnessed the transformation of the audience’s response to this woman. Her name is Susan Boyle, by the way. And she sang “I dreamed a dream” from Les Miserables.

When she first walked out on the stage, the camera showed a skeptical and scornful audience. Even the judges were rolling their eyes and raising their eyebrows as they questioned why she was bothering to audition. And they were amused when she expressed her hopes to become a professional singer like British musical theater star, Elaine Paige.

She didn’t react to the teasing with hurt feelings or embarrassment but countered with wit and humor.

It seemed likely that Susan was very familiar with low expectations of her, making it all the more powerful to witness the saying — “You can’t judge a book by its cover” — proven true and lived out before a worldwide audience.

The moment Susan began to sing, the audience’s demeanor immediately changed from doubt and sarcasm to applause and wonder. Everyone was ecstatic to have their first impression proven wrong. A lesson on passing judgment and making assumptions was learned like a cold splash of water to our arrogant faces.

I’m three years older than Susan, and the fact that she would be pursuing her dream at this point in her life resonates with me and gives me encouragement that it is never too late to begin.

I think some of my tears were also at the thought of the world being deprived of her inspiring voice until now. And I can’t help but wonder how much more undiscovered talent remains silent or stifled and perhaps may never be shared with the rest of us. I’m also thinking about dream upon dream I’ve never acted upon.

Being inspired by Susan’s angelic voice is not something I would have wanted to miss. I’m beginning to understand more about the interconnectedness of humanity. What we do or don’t do with our lives matters. We make a difference to those our lives touch.

Do you have a dream you’ve tucked away on a high shelf with the hope you’ll get it down someday and do something about it?

Susan Boyle has shown the world that there are no time limitations or requirements for acting upon our dreams. And she is showing each of us how to reach them.

Does it take courage? Perhaps so, but even more as Susan is showing us, achieving dreams requires being yourself — genuine, authentic, honest, real. Her authenticity has given the world hope at a time when we’re all trying to figure out how to make changes and improvements to dire situations. Maybe the answers are within each of us.

There is no better time than the present to be true to yourself — to pursue dreams and set about reaching goals. We all have unique, God-given talents and skills that need to be used and are meant to be shared. We may not all be singers, but we all have a purpose to be fulfilled.

Let’s get busy doing just that. The world needs each of us!