A couple of years ago, Rodney talked me into watching the documentary, Searching for Sugarman. It’s the story of a man named Sixto Rodriguez who played the local music scene in Detroit, Michigan in the 1970’s. With his Bob Dylan-esque voice, he was discovered and signed to a label—a deal he quickly lost when his career never really went anywhere.
But without knowing it, his music made it’s way to South Africa where it became the voice and inspiration of a younger generation desperate to end the government-enforced apartheid that enslaved their culture. The country grew so enamored with his music that urban legends started circulating about this mysterious musician. Two fans committed to finding the real Rodriguez and (before the age of the Internet) discovered he was living a modest and unassuming life back in Detroit doing construction work—completely unaware of his international fame.
So, amazingly, decades after what he thought was the start, and then swift end, to his music career, Rodriguez set out for South Africa to perform a live concert of his old songs before a crowd of adoring fans he never knew he had.
Watching him come out on stage to an arena full of people is a powerful scene. And observing, are two of his grown daughters, watching as their dad’s dream gets realized decades after he thought it had died. As he starts to sing, and the crowd goes wild, you hear one of his daughters say in a voiceover,
“Home is acceptance.”
And as you watch Sixto take the stage and hear his daughter, you think, “He’s found home. Music is home. Performing is home. Stardom is home.”
Except that it’s not. Because after the concert, Sixto packs it up in South Africa and heads back to Detroit. He returns to doing construction work after having his dream realized and performing the concert of a lifetime. It turns out this wasn’t the resurrection of his singing career, after all. It turns out this wasn’t the end of the movie—adoring fans, bright lights, soulful music. The end was back in Detroit, doing what he’d always done. That was home.
At the close, you watch an aging, slightly limping, blue-collar construction worker walking down the streets of a struggling Detroit street. You want to pity him, but strangely, find yourself envying him instead.
Because here was a guy who got far more than he could have ever imagined in one lifetime and abandoned it all for something smaller, but far more meaningful. He learned acceptance from a few is far better than stardom from many. And home was with his few.
You don’t have to be a struggling musician from Mo-town to relate to the story. As big as our dreams appear, as much as we believe is hinging on seeing them actualized in our lifetime, when we get down to it, we don’t really want the world, because the world won’t make us happy. We want home. We want a place where we fit, where we belong, where we are truly known and deemed enough.
Because acceptance is powerful. Even more powerful than the cost of a dream and unmatched fame. And you don’t have to have seen the movie to know there is a part in each and every one of us desperate for the same thing.
Our greatest accomplishment won’t be in our bigness. Just ask Sixto. It will be in finding acceptance with the few we can call home and be home for. The ones who know us too well to know we aren’t as shiny, polished or put together as everyone else thinks. The ones we know the ins and outs of, finding them endearing and not disappointing. The ones who see our talents as gifts to bestow and not things to leverage. The ones whose shortcoming we see as part of their humanity and not liabilities to manage.
I think it’s rare. The good news is, it’s more easily attainable than performing concerts to sold out crowds. I think, right in front of us are the people we have the potential to be home for and find home in. In encouraging words. In resolute kindness. In insistent communicating how valued they are when the world around them barrages them with contradictory messages.
Sixto Rodriquez was a man who lived the dream until he realized it was the wrong dream. The real dream was right before him all along. What if we didn’t have to get everything we thought we wanted before we realized we had everything we already need?
What if we decided the point, the dream, was to chase hard after home for ourselves and for others?
I think we’d be far happier than we ever imagined. And I think Sixto would be proud.