Faith, Hope Lead To Redemption

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - January 12, 2011

He would stand on the side of a busy roadway, dressed in military camouflage sporting wild hair and a simple cardboard sign with an unusual message.

Sadly, this scenario plays out in towns and cities all around the country. And in each of these stories, unfortunately, society drives right by each of these anonymous faces, each struggling in his own way to survive.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Internet.

Donal Chenoweth, a reporter for the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, did not drive by the homeless man on the side of the busy road who was dressed in camouflage with wild hair and a cardboard sign. He pulled over, said hello and read his sign.

“I have a God-given gift of voice. I am an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on tough times. Please, any help will be appreciated ...”

This is part of the message scrawled on the flap of a cardboard box that changed a life.

In a matter of hours, Chenoweth posted a video clip on YouTube. You see the scruffy homeless guy coming into frame. At first glance, he’s the kind of guy who would cause most people to keep moving on. When he’s questioned about his sign, he speaks. Of the now more than 4 million views of this clip, I guarantee the reaction of the viewer is the same. Think of millions of jaws dropping open.

That wonderful, mellifluous voice is the stuff of chickenskin. Think of the spoken equivalent of a Barry White tune. Now, bump it up a bit on the pleasure meter. There you go.

His name is Ted Williams and he’s right at the start of his 15 minutes of fame. Oh, by the way, those 4 million hits? It took less than 36 hours. It’s as viral as viral gets.

Williams was born in Brooklyn and trained to be a radio announcer. Inspired by the voices he heard and intrigued with the medium’s maxim “radio defined as theatre of the mind,” Williams found success. But, when the friendly relationship he had with alcohol became abusive, he found himself out of a job and on the streets. All he had were his pipes, the clothes on his back and faith in God. Williams started his comeback in 1997, and with a sponsor from a rehabilitation program has been sober for the past two plus years. Yes, he was still on the street, but his mind was clear and all he was doing was looking for a second chance.

As of this writing, Williams has offers from MTV, the producers of awards shows and a reality TV show; the Cleveland Cavaliers have offered him a full-time gig.

The online world sometimes gets battered for all the bad that lurks behind every URL. In this case, it was a lifesaver. Yes, we can make mistakes. But we all have the ability to overcome adversity. Faith and hope is a powerful combination.

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