Most of us know the song because of Susan Boyle’s appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. April 11, 2009, Susan stood on the stage in her frumpy dress and outdated hairdo. The audience and judges snickered and laughed during her interview, enjoying the misery of this out-of-touch want-a-be in an out-of-place position. But, when she opened her mouth and began to sing, everyone sat stunned. In a clear voice that was perfectly on pitch, she sang. “I dreamed a dream of time gone by, when hope was high and life 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 …”
It seemed that Susan Boyle was singing her own song, a dream of youth faded and gone. After a moment of stunned silence, the crowd leaped to their feet in a standing ovation for this obscure Scottish woman who lived alone with her cat. In November of 2009 she released her first album. It immediately became the number one best selling album in the world.
The song Susan chose to sing that night comes from the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Miserables. It is the song sung by Fantine, an unwed mother ostracized in nineteenth century France for her “moral failure” and forced into prostitution in order to support her child. Anne Hathaway was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Golden Globe for her performance of the song in the recent movie version of the musical.
In 1862, commenting on Fantine, the character in his novel, Victor Hugo wrote, “What is this history of Fantine? It is society purchasing a slave. From whom? From misery. From hunger, cold, isolation, destitution. A dolorous bargain. A soul for a morsel of bread. Misery offers; society accepts. The sacred law of Jesus Christ governs our civilization, but it does not yet permeate it; it is said that slavery has disappeared from European civilization. This is a mistake. It still exists; but it weights only upon the woman, and it is called prostitution.”
Most of us think that slavery ended with the Civil War but, according to International Justice Mission, “More children, women and men are held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade…. Trafficking in humans generates profits in excess of 32 billion dollars a year for those who, by force and deception, sell human lives into slavery and sexual bondage.” According to the U.S. Department of State, “There are approximately 600,000 to 800,000 childen, women and men trafficked across international borders annually.” 80% of these are women and girls. Up to 50% are minors.
International Justice Mission (IJM) was founded in 1997 by Gary Haugen after an international study disclosed widespread global abuse of the poor. Today IJM has over 500 lawyers, investigators, social workers and other staff working in Asia, Africa and South America to confront abuse and rescue victims. More than 95% are nationals in the countries where they serve. (for more information visit http://www.ijm.org)
God gives every generation the responsibility to help others experience dignity, freedom, respect, opportunity and faith. What am I doing today to help others dream their dream?