Rags to Redemption

Redemption.

Andy Dufresne found it at Shawshank.

Jules Winnfield found it in Pulp Fiction.

Paul found it on the road to Damascus.

And now, it appears Ted Williams has found it on Interstate 71 in Ohio.

Ted Williams is the homeless man with the golden voice. Many of you probably have already heard about this story or seen the video. I heard about him yesterday and watched an interview with him this morning.

It is truly a story of redemption, and unless your heart is stone cold, I think you will agree.

A prime example of “Social Media” in every way possible.

A videographer from the Columbus Dispatch went in search of a man he’d seen on the side of the road with an unusual sign. It read:

“I have a God given gift of voice, I’m an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. PLEASE! any help will be greatfully appreciated. Thank you and God bless you. Happy Holidays.”

I love the spelling of “greatfully.”

And found him he did. As did thousands of other people once the video went viral overnight.

Once with a career in radio, Mr. Williams found himself homeless after cocaine, crack and alcohol ravaged his professional and personal life. The slippery slope turned into a mudslide. On the streets for ten years, Mr. Williams lived in shelters and with family and friends. He had arrests, and served time in prison for theft, forgery and drug abuse.

He’d become a homeless addict, fueling his habits through crime. His conduct around local businesses was offensive and crude. Anyone looking at him would say, wow, now there’s a loser. Society had written him off as one of the many destined to live and die on the street.

And then he speaks. And it truly is divine.

Did God or Youtube save him?

I’m not sure why the two must be mutually exclusive. If you are one that believes everything happens for a reason, and there are no coincidences in the world, it’s an easy answer. What brain slapped me this morning was his demeanor. There’s a noticeable genteelness about him that I didn’t expect from one living on the streets. Despite more than a decade of living hell, cocaine, crack and alcohol. Despite the obvious lack of personal hygiene. Despite reducing his body to only a shell of its former self, miraculously his voice was spared. Evidently he had a “come-to-Jesus meeting” of the minds at some point. Whether his God Bless You’s on the street were just lip service or heart felt, something about this man…over and above his voice…is different.

And when he spoke, he gushed praise to God. In his former circumstance, he had no reason to offer praise to God. In fact, he had every reason to curse him for allowing the chain of events to happen. Bitterness and resentment could have just as easily replaced thanks and praise. He had everything. Career. Family. Fortune. And then he had nothing.

One of my biggest prayers that I sent out was that (my mother) would live long enough for me to see me rebound or whatever, and I guess God kept her around and kept my pipes around to maybe just have one more shot that I would be able to say, ‘Mom, I did do it before,’ — I might pass away before her or whatever, but my dad didn’t get a chance to see this. But God is good.

I always said, ‘God, you’ve never seen fit to take my voice in spite of all the flames and everything that went down my throat.’

It is rare for the mainstream media to give the spotlight to someone so obviously touched by the Spirit. But after the newspaper’s YouTube video went viral, he went from panhandler to prince within hours. He’s on all the major news networks. The video was at 12 million views as of this morning. Job offers are pouring in. The Cleveland Cavaliers basketball organization offered him an announcing job. The NFL’s film production office is chasing him. Voice-over contracts are piling up.

Will history repeat itself?

Only time will really tell if he’s sincere. Mr. Williams will be thrown head first back into the very type of success and lifestyle that fueled his previous addiction. There is no doubt the man has a unique gift. Whether it was through a series of happenstance events or an orchestrated plan, Mr. Williams has been given a second chance. A second chance to be the kind of man he should have been the first time around. Perhaps he had to be completely broken before he could truly be everything he’s suppose to be in this life.

The difference between my successes of years gone by is that I didn’t acknowledge the Lord or thank him for anything before … This time around, I have God in my life, acknowledging him on a daily basis. I’ve found a new sense of spirituality now.

Redemption.

Like Andy, the rain that poured from above after he crawled through the sewer pipe with all its…well, you get the idea…was symbolic redemption after 17 years of prison. The washing away of the past to face the future with a clean slate. It’s the story of the transforming power of tragedy and adversity.

In reality, redemption is rarely achieved easily. We all must struggle to find real meaning to life. And most of the time, the process of surviving the abyss is how we discover who we really are deep down in the dark places of our soul.

“Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean.”

Ted Williams has certainly crawled through his river of shit. Redemption greeted him and handed him another gift. I hope he continues to be amazed at what happened in his life these past few days. I hope he never forgets the depths to which he sank, and why. I hope he uses his second chance to make a difference not only in his life, but the lives of others.

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4 thoughts on “Rags to Redemption

  1. I love stories of redemption and I am so hoping he really has found it and will have a wonderful rest of his life. I love when people “find” themselves – I hate when they’re being manipulative.

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