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Homeless Ted Williams Story Is No Feel Good Story For Me

First off, let me preface this blog by saying, I have nothing against feel good come back stories nor do I have anything against helping the homeless. 

Photo by Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

You may remember I even blogged about Michael Vick, a guy who I absolutely hated as a quarterback and a human being.  And it pained me a little to say it, but I had to at least give the man credit for his hard work at improving his craft and his remorse for the horrible things he was a part of.  Somehow it seemed the justice system worked and he at least to this point has worked hard to make himself a better player and more importantly, a better person. And anyone who knows me , knows that not only have I been poor in my life, but I work hard to help those who are less fortunate, or have fallen on hard times to this day.  Most of us are a paycheck or a few bad choices away from hard times ourselves.  All that being said, most of us also work hard and long to not make those bad choices, and we try hard to not need that second chance.  Many of you are currently working hard in a job you never wanted, or two or three jobs just trying to get by and make sure your family does have a roof over their heads and food on the table.  You to me are the heroes.  You deserve to win the lottery. You are the personification of the American spirit. You are my feel good story.

Image: Video screen shot by TSM

If you are unaware of the Ted Williams story I will give you a brief synopsis, as I see it.  Mere days ago there was a homeless man in Columbus Ohio.  He has been homeless since 1993.  He also admits that before he was homeless and addicted to cocaine and crack cocaine, he used to go to work drunk. “I was drinking like a fifth a day. But I was working, I was doing well.”  To this point I have not been able to find out exactly what his “radio experience”  is or what he was doing before he fell on hard times. But I know I have never heard of him before and I have been in this business for over twenty years. So a video of this guy , the “Golden Voice”,  they are calling him, shows up and indeed, here is a homeless guy with a really nice “radio voice”.  A few days later, after 18 years of homelessness, drug abuse, and a criminal record, this guy is the most sought after “voice talent” in the world.  He has offers from TV shows, sports franchises, major companies and even, NFL Films.  This is where I have the problem.

For this man to be offered or in the running for these kind of jobs in this bussiness, before he was homeless he would have been working for many, many years and have an amazing amount of proven success on his resume. I do not know if this is the case.  But even if I give him the benefit of the doubt there are things about this story that bother me.

Once again, I have no problem with people getting a leg up, getting second chances or helping those who wished to be helped.  But did he?  He did nothing himself to make this happen, he was merely standing on the side of the road begging for money.  He wasn’t sending out tapes of his “Golden Voice” to radio stations.  He wasn’t standing outside advertising firms impressing the executives with his voice as they went inside. He hadn’t even taken some of the money he was making pan-handling,  ( I heard a report it was as much as $60,000 a year) to get a haircut, shower and a decent outfit to try to get a job bagging groceries.  Early in my career I had to take a job doing factory work for a temp agency to keep my dream alive and family fed.  So there was no effort on this man’s part to better his life. Not that I have seen.

“But Sean” you say, ” He has been clean and off drugs for two years, he has made an effort to better himself”  Yes, you are right.  And for that I applaud him. I’m having a hard enough time quitting smoking, so I can’t imagine how hard it is to shake the crack cocaine habit.  But may I also note that I made the choice to smoke myself, and when I do manage to kick the habit, I will expect no trophies or special considerations.  As I will still be no better than those who never smoked, or who have already beat the addiction.  I will have quit for me , and me alone.  ( a personal victory, I will indeed treasure though) So neither does Ted Williams get   for beating his demons he,  as do all of us,  make the choice to allow these demons in our lives ourselves.

Screen shot from CBS broadcast

I would have loved the story to be, CBS Radio in New York offer the man with the “Golden Voice” an internship and voice production work in exchange for an apartment, a base salary and continuing drug and life rehabilitation classes. This allows our hero the chance to work for his rewards, and therefore appreciate the them.  This ensures he continues his efforts so that he does not fall back on his old ways and truly does become a role model for those who are where he was a mere week ago.  Instead , we are going to throw possibly millions of dollars at a man, who seems to have no real life skills, a criminal record, and an addiction to crack cocaine.  Without checks and balances, do any of you really see this working out?

Then there is the mere preposterous level of his new found success. A very nice firefighter with 23 years experience called the show today when I talked about this and said that I was being “petty”  and I should be happy for the guys sudden success.  So I said to him, imagine  if this guy had been a volunteer fireman for a few years before his downfall into drugs and homelessness for 20 years.  Meanwhile you were working your butt off at the firehouse and doing whatever you could to get better and promoted. Now a “Youtube” video comes out of an “Amazing homeless firefighter who put out a burning doghouse with nothing but a garden hose!” Do you think in a few days he should be your Fire Chief? And in reality that wouldn’t even compare, he’d have to be appointed the National Fire Chief. Of course the answer is no. How is that in anyway fair to those men and women who have worked for years and years, maybe for free.  Maybe working other jobs to get through the lean years.  How is that in any fair to those who also maybe wanted to give up, fall into the bottom of a whiskey bottle but DIDN”T. It just isn’t fair.

I was brought up to believe that dedication and hard work bring success. And I’d like my kids to believe this as well.  I don’t want them thinking being the star of a “viral video” or being some whacked out person on a reality show is there ticket to success.  And I don’t want them thinking that if they do make the wrong choices in life, and become homeless and/or drug addicted that digging your way out of that hole is anything but years of hard work and dedication to rebuilding your reputation. ( so don’t go down that road)

Web screenshot by TSM

I actually worry about Mr. Williams.  I despite all I’ve said,  wish him well.  And I do on some level love that in America anything can happen and dreams really can come true. I also love to see other people happy and get some luck in their lives.  But I also know that all of these people who are offering a hand, no,  a glorified HAND-OUT to Mr. Williams will not care about him or help him if his story gets cold, or his addiction returns.  Will you?  And more importantly will he know somehow have magically acquired the life skills to then, help himself?

What I do hope we all learn from this story is that the homeless of our nation do have value, they do have talents and abilities.  And I hope we learn that with proper rehabilitation and life skills these people can and should become valuable members of our society again.  And hopefully we will not have to learn the hard way through Mr. Williams that nothing is EVER helped simply by throwing money, or fame at it. You simply can not build a real life or re build a person in “15 minutes”.

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