BY KEISHA JOHNSON
Someone recently posted an XFactor USA video on my FB feed of an unusual competitor. Asked why she was there, Lillie McCloud told the judges, “To win, this is my time,” she said. “I have waited for a long time for this opportunity.”
Seemingly not a day shy of twenty four years old, Lillie McCloud left the judges and audience dumbfounded when she disclosed she was fifty four, a mother of three and grandmother of seven.
Touched to the core and tearful after Lillie’s stirring rendition of Cece Winan’s Alabaster Box, the audience rose in a standing ovation. Simon Cowell, himself a little lachrymose, confessed he had never heard the song before.
“Where have you been, where have you been hiding?” an emotional judge Kelly Rowland asked of Lillie while wiping tears from her eyes.
Thirty years after her debut album in the 1980’s, Lillie had brought to the X Factor an undeniable gift of connecting with the soul of an audience through her voice.
She had always wanted to be a popular singer. Had actually launched her singing career in the 80’s, made albums, been on tours and started to garner a following, but never quite made it. As family came along she said she gave them priority because she wanted to be present for her children.
“Maybe I feel like your time wasn’t supposed to happen until now,” another X Factor judge commented.
This story is three years old, but still very current not for the entertainment value, but because Lillie demonstrated the kind of courage and determination that is required to pursue a dream after setbacks and even after a lifetime has passed.
In our society, the number of persons transitioning into retirement (age 65) is at its highest ever, currently representing 16% of the population and projected to grow to 20.1% by 2024 according to Statistics Canada. “In 2014/2015, the growth rate of the population aged 65 years and older was 3.5%, approximately four times the growth rate of the total population.”
Among many baby boomers like Lillie there is an anxiety about the future and what value or contribution they can continue to make in our ever transient society.
This reality is even more daunting because for many retirees, their nest egg is insufficient to sustain them in retirement, suggesting that a significant number of boomers will have to again seek gainful employment.
If you find yourself in such a time of transition, like Lillie McCloud, embrace this change as a second chance and the opportune time to make your mark with what you’ve always wanted to do and not done.
Lillie at age fifty four, like Colonel Saunders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) at age sixty five; Julia Child, first woman to host a popular TV cooking show at age fifty one in the 1960s; Noah Webster, creator of Webster American Dictionary at age sixtty six and so many other ‘late bloomers’, remind us that it is never too late to pursue your passion and be successful at it as long as you are willing to be open, to realign, reinvent yourself and forge ahead.
Lillie’s story also reminds me that there is a time and place for everything. Although life may have seemingly detoured you from your desired career or dream, it doesn’t mean your dream will never become your reality – if you do not give up but pursue it.
Despite the many setbacks throughout Col. Saunders’s life for example, including divorce, multiple career changes and losing his livelihood, to surviving on a security check and meager savings for a while, he remained resilient.
He would retool, from gaining a law degree via a correspondence course and seeking mentors before he practiced law, to completing a restaurant and hotel management course when he decided to pursue this later line of business.
Today KFC has outlived the Colonel and remains hugely successful with over 18,000 locations in 115 countries. In fact in 1988 Col. Saunders sold KFC for $2 million in addition to negotiating a reasonable annual lifetime income from it.
As I watched Lillie progress through the rounds on the X Factor, it was amazing how every week she had to adjust and apply herself to remain current with a much younger voting audience. And each time she nailed it.
I learned that she didn’t win the competition. She made it to the top eight but even then her parting words were, “I learned a lot…. God knows what he is doing.” She has since launched two albums and is pursuing her music career.
Lillie McCloud’s story like Colonel Saunders assures us that there is hope for everyone who dares to persist and take a step of faith even after years of delay. So whatever your age, guard your dream. The journey to it may be winding, arduous and even long, but to never give up is the secret of glory.