Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Homeless Man Finds His Voice

Photo Credit: Ben McLeod
You've probably heard the story of Ted Williams, the homeless Columbus, Ohio man with the smooth radio voice.  Williams, who had previously worked in radio before alcohol and drug problems caught up with him, was spotted by Doral Chenoweth, who works in multimedia for the Columbus Dispatch.

Chenoweth gave Williams a little money and recorded a short video of him which he eventually posted to the Dispatch website.  The clip went viral and now Williams has found work, re-established a relationship with his mother (who he hadn't seen in twenty years) and is enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame.  You can view the video below.

This chance encounter isn't all that crazy once you learn about Chenoweth and the type of person he is.  Motivated by his Christian faith, it's not uncommon for him to take time to interact with those that many pass by. tells his story:
"But the reason Chenoweth stopped goes deeper than his job.

It's "standard operating procedure" for him, he said, to stop and talk to people who are homeless, whether he's carrying a camera or not.

"It's part of my faith," he said after some prodding about his motivations. "You may not be able to help someone with money, but you can at least say hello, how you doing, and look at them."

About 14 years ago, Chenoweth said he was assigned to photograph a homeless ministry at New Life United Methodist Church in downtown Columbus. He was so impressed by the ability of the 50-member congregation to help the homeless that he and his wife joined.

The church's pastor said that Chenoweth routinely invites people who are homeless to the church for meals and medical attention. He's also photographed people on the street and displayed their photographs to emphasize their humanity, said the Rev. Jennifer Kimball Casto, New Life's pastor.

When asked if she was surprised by Chenoweth's action, Casto said: "Absolutely not. Doral has a special heart for people who are homeless and in need."

Chenoweth's concern for people goes beyond Columbus, and even the United States. His wife said they are regular Habitat for Humanity volunteers. They've also taken seven trips to Africa with their two children, Cassie, 12, and Kurtis, 10, to serve impoverished communities. Chenoweth has documented many of the trips on his website."
There is a story behind every face and a lot to be learned through the lives of others.  For many of us, the homeless that we see by the side of the road or on the street corner are simply ignored or disregarded.  But for those of us that are Christians, we must remember that each person has inherit value and dignity as image bearers of God.  Each person is worthy of God's love.

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to interact with a number of homeless individuals.  I'm ashamed to say that more times than not I have ignored them and went about my way.  But, through God's grace, there have been instances where I've stopped and offered money or food and, on occasion, had the opportunity to sit for awhile and hear their story.

What I've learned is that the man or woman on the street is no different than me.  They have the same sorts of hopes and dreams and needs in life.  They are someone's son or daughter.  Someone's brother or sister.  They were once a child that didn't dream that one day they'd live on the street.

The homeless are in their predicament because of a variety of reasons.  It could be drug or alcohol addiction or bad choices in life.  It may have been because of a lost job.  Or mental illness.  Or unfairly getting accused of a crime.  Or an unplanned pregnancy as a teenager where their family kicked them to the curb.

As a follower of Christ, Jesus tells me to demonstrate His love to those that I come across.  It's amazing what we can learn when we sit down and hear someone's story.  It's easy for us to decide in our mind that the homeless aren't worthy of our time and attention.  But the story of Ted Williams and Doral Chenoweth demonstrate that there's often more to the story if we stop and take the time to listen.     

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