I love summer—everything about it. The sunshine, the hot days and warm nights, the more relaxed pace that seems to wash over everybody and, of course, America’s Got Talent.
It’s one guilty pleasure that I look forward to and I am always amazed anew by the brilliant (and not so brilliant) displays of talent. Some acts shock me, others scare the crap out of me, some astound me that what-they-just-did-can-actually-be-done and others are so passionately performed that they move me, sometimes to tears.
Last Wednesday night, I was watching the final Judge-Cuts episode ahead of the Live Shows that will begin next week. As twenty different acts performed, one after the other, I was keenly reminded of something, and it wasn’t my lack of talent.
First, I am reminded of the magnificent diversity of people out there. The range of contestants, their stories, their backgrounds and their life paths that are all so vastly different. It’s an extra layer to the show that makes it all the more interesting. Second, and more importantly, I am reminded of a vital life lesson that, in the day-to-dayness of our lives, I, and often others, tend to forget: Be grateful.
Oftentimes, AGT will show a short segment that gives us a glimpse into peoples’ lives before their performance. At times, these scenes can feel a bit contrived, created in order to pull at our heart strings and endear us to the performer. But what can’t be denied is that they are also real human life stories. The Humans of Americas Got Talent, if you will.
Some stories warm the heart, such as that of Kadie Lynn, an outrageously talented, 12-year-old country singer (seriously, check her out) who was adopted at birth by a childless couple. Her mother says that the moment she held Kadie in her arms, she knew she was part of their family.
I shut my eyes for a moment, Ronee. It was like I was listening to Dione Warwick or Gladys Knight. It really felt that you had a massive, massive career, say twenty years ago, and you were coming back tonight to sing one of your hits again. It’s like the world missed you for some reason, Ronee. If you stay on the show and continue to sing the way you sing, the world is going to catch up with you, I have a feeling.
And then there are the other stories. The ones that impacted me with that crucial reminder to be grateful.
Viktor Kee’s story illustrates the inseparable bond he shares with his brother. When they were young, growing up in the Ukraine, his older brother smuggled a 6-year-old Viktor into the local children circus School “Uday” where Viktor learned to be a talented and artistic juggler. The segment spoke of their relationship and how Viktor’s brother was his biggest support, friend and ally. Before he began his performance, Viktor dedicated it to his brother’s memory. Between Viktor’s first audition and this one, his brother had suffered a heart attack and died.
Reggie Woods, a south side Chicago student and member of the Curie Metropolitan High School choir group, Musicality, tearfully told his heartbreaking story: “After the (first) audition I got the news while I was in school that my sister was murdered and put behind a dumpster and left where nobody would find her.”
Jon Dorenbos is a master magician whose act leaves you scratching your head and believing that perhaps magic is real. He’s also a long snapper for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was raised by his loving aunt because at the age of twelve, his father murdered his mother.
Watching these very real, just-like-you-and-me-people and hearing their stories, admonished me to be grateful, driving home the realization of how fortunate I am. Everyone has struggles, we all face challenges and yes, they are very real. But in those moments when I’m feeling less optimistic than usual, I need to stop and remind myself that things could be worse, so very, very worse.
I look forward to watching how the rest of the season unfolds and discovering who I’ll be rooting for in the end. I’ll also watch as these people rise like phoenixes from the ashes as they chase their dreams. Thank you, America’s Got Talent. You’re an unexpected source for a life lesson. I’ve learned a lot from you.