Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ted Williams: The smooth voice of the formerly homeless

A video recently hit youtube and generated over 11 million views, finding its way onto several news programs including NBC Nightly and CNN Blitzer. If you haven't heard, the video features a homeless man, Ted Williams, with a very pleasant "radio" voice. The video was shot in Ohio and Ted Williams has found himself in the midst of notoriety and uplift since.Williams was given a chance to showcase his talent on-air and many job offers, even a mortgage offer, have been rolling in.

All the good will is very American and the nation does love a uplifting story of second chances--particularly one that includes a person's new-found recognition of special talents. Williams' story is also one of possible redemption as he found himself homeless (for about 10 years) after bouts with drugs and alcohol. While this is a great "second chance" for Williams, how optimistic should one be in regards to his ability to re-enter the world of the homeful?

Putting aside the very contentious issues that arise from the situation of giving a job to a homeless man over someone who has had more of a stable work history or in consideration of society's role in creating a scenario wherein Williams became homeless in the first place (this would seem to downplay his own role in self destructive behavior)--putting all that aside, what I am most interested in is Ted Williams' acclimation back into the working world and a homeful world. Being on the fringe of society for ten years must have some affect on a person resulting in possible behavioral or mental issues that might need to be worked through before a person can make a secure and healthy re-entry into mainstream society. On top of this work, for Williams, is the attention that his story has garnered--attention that may be as much of a curse as it is a blessing.

One only hopes that Williams has been offered assistance from a trained professional that can guide him through his journey back from the fringe. Getting to work, filing benefit and insurance paperwork, having to be somewhere everyday, paying a mortgage, obtaining a back account, budgeting for various bills: all these tasks must be daunting for people who have been homeless for a long period of time during which their main focus has been simple survival. Such a challenging journey, and one that Williams will now face, is of interest and goes far beyond the initial feel-good appeal that his story has generated thus far. And what about his background? What about a relationship? Whom does a formerly homeless and newly homeful person date (and one might argue that if Williams were gay, he may be compelled to stay closeted as not to disrupt the good will that has been bestowed upon him--but, perhaps this is a overly pessimistic view. Furthermore, I am not implying that Williams is gay, but am just thinking of a hypothetical)?

I wish Ted Williams well as he works to put together a new life, possibly featuring a career in broadcasting--only time will tell. I do hope that he is able to use his ten years out of work, living in tents and begging on the streets, to his advantage. I hope he is able to overcome the challenges that must accompany a return the the homeful world. This is a second chance for Ted and an opportunity for us--greater society--to learn about what being homeless and helping the homeless truly means.

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