I saw a movie about five years ago and just saw it again last night on PBS, “Searching for Sugar Man”. It is a documentary about a musician, a singer and songwriter (Sixto Rodriguez) who made a couple of albums around 1970 and sold almost none in the United States. The reason for the movie is that his albums became incredibly popular in South Africa to the point that some describe him as bigger than Elvis in South Africa. But neither Rodriguez, who is described as a simple laborer, or anyone else in the United States knew of his fame, and everyone in South Africa thought that Rodriguez had died, with a variety of different rumors of how he died. But that eventually leads to the climax of the movie when two South Africans in the late 1990’s, who were trying to find out something about him and exactly how he died, find he is alive and make contact, bringing him to South Africa to perform.
So now comes the reason I’m bringing this up, Rodriguez’s response. He goes to South Africa with two of his daughters not having a clue what to expect, maybe a couple dozen people, and he ends up playing a concert for thousands of people. His daughters are shocked at his reception, he has trouble staying in fancy hotels, and the people can’t believe it is this guy they thought was dead for decades. And in the concert he just falls into place, singing and playing the songs as everyone remembers, and then he goes back to Detroit and his daily life. Interviews in South Africa he barely says anything in, and the money he makes from this he mostly spends on family and friends, staying in his same apartment and going back to work like before. It is obvious from some people’s reactions in the movie that there is some concern about what might be or had gone on about royalties for all the albums sold and where the money went, but he doesn’t seem involved in that. Rodriguez is shown as happy that so many people enjoy his music, and goes on with his life. Fame does not phase him, he doesn’t hide from it there, but doesn’t seek it out or assume a different attitude because of it. When he gets back to Detroit he is back to his life as if what happened in South Africa never happened.
Seeing the movie it is striking how humble Rodriguez appears. But even more than that it reminds me of a quote from Mother Teresa, “God doesn’t ask us to be successful, but to be faithful.” Rodriguez probably would have had a career in music if he had known he was so successful in the 1970’s, but he isn’t bitter or upset about this, and seems to have kept faithful to his ideals. Can I live my faith that way? Not worrying about the response I get, but staying faithful to my values and beliefs whether I appear successful or not. In this season of Lent do we pray, or fast, or give alms for others to see, or because God asks us to, and we know we should. St. Joseph, your parents, consider who’s example may help encourage you to not worry so much about reward or the reaction of others, but rather what you know you should do.