Everyone’s talking about Ted Williams these days. My twitter feed is abuzz with congratulations for him, YouTube is counting hits of his video clips in the millions, and most of the news sites I frequent have something to say about Ted, his voice, his reunion with his mother, his job offers…
And I say congratulations to Ted! I am pleased to see he will no longer have to live on the streets and that others will be able to experience his “golden voice” on the airwaves for what we hope will be a long time to come.
Ted’s is the kind of rags to riches story we all love – and I think we’re especially enamored by it because it emerged from the web 2.0. We still love to believe that the United States is a place where dreams come true, and we point to stories like Ted’s to prove that the American Dream is alive and well.
I have a couple of problems with this. First, while Ted’s is an excellent story, there are millions more people experiencing homelessness that will never garner such media attention. The family sleeping in their car because they lost their home may not ever see the limelight, even if their youngest daughter is a math whiz. We may never find out that the homeless veteran seeking shelter from a cold winter’s night is also a gourmet cook. I do not mean to imply that talking about Ted Williams is a bad thing, simply that talking just about Ted Williams misses the point. Homelessness is a national human rights crisis, and not everyone who sleeps on the sidewalk tonight will get the help they need quickly enough. Some of them will die of hypothermia. We should be talking about that.
Secondly, I am disturbed by the implication that it is “news” that people experiencing homelessness might, in fact, possess talents and skills. My mother taught me, and I’m betting yours did too, that everyone has something to bring to the table. Everyone has some unique gift or talent. The trouble is, we’re not always looking. Rather than seeing Ted Williams as an extraordinary phenomenon, I’d prefer we saw him as a reminder that all people have value.
May the story of Ted Williams be one that inspires the nation to believe that anything is possible. And may our “anything” mean ending homelessness for all, not just for one very talented man.
-Whitney Gent, Development & Communications Director