What can we learn from Ted Williams? The homeless man with the Golden Voice.

There’s been a lot of attention this week on a homeless man from Columbus, Ohio. You’ve probably seen video clips of him online by now or even caught his touching story on The Today Show. His name is Ted Williams and he’s been dubbed “The Man with the Golden Voice.”

You can watch his video that started it all here:

There’s no question that his story is powerful. Once a successful radio personality who ended up homeless and living on the streets all due to the blistering effects of alcohol and drug abuse. Fast forward to this week and a Columbus Dispatch reporter’s video of Ted panhandling goes viral across the internet landing Ted with an almost overnight spotlight, national opportunities and most of all… a second chance.

In the midst of watching the story of Ted unfold I couldn’t help but think of what it must have been like for Ted all those years on the corner before anyone listened to or recognized his voice of gold. Then he was just another homeless guy panhandling on the side of the road, wasn’t he? Thousands of people probably just drove past him. Most probably looked the other way (on purpose). Others certainly wouldn’t make eye contact. For those who did, did they reach into their pockets or car console for some spare change or did they just write him off as worthless, someone who would just blow that dollar on crack and beer? Some even thought, “Get a job.”

But now, everyone is cheering for Ted Williams.

What has changed?

Ted’s gifts were the same three weeks ago as they are today. He’s a man. A man with feelings and hope and challenges just like the rest of us but given a little national exposure we look past the wiry hair, the dingy clothes and the sign. Ted no longer is that bothersome homeless guy on the streets begging for a handout… he’s now the underdog given a new shot at life with millions of people around the world cheering him on.

Do you see the irony?

Had that reporter not come along Ted would still be standing there with his cardboard sign. People would still be driving by. Sure, some would stop but most wouldn’t.

Would you?

My point is this. That guy who you see every day on the corner with a sign… what if he’s the next Ted Williams? What if you just drove past, letting his homelessness deafen you to the opportunity to hear his Golden Voice? What if you had the chance, like that reporter, to change his life for good?

You’ll never know if you keep driving by, will you?

I’m not saying that we need to try to help everyone, because we can’t… but we can help someone. And at the very least we can treat people with dignity and respect regardless of who they are or if they are standing in a board room or on a street corner.

Maybe the biggest lesson from Ted Williams isn’t about his Golden Voice but how through it, we can hear a reminder to practice The Golden Rule.

Do you agree / disagree? Share your thoughts via a comment here.

Oh… and before you go, spend a minute and a half watching this video and ask yourself the question… “What would you do?

Read an article on Ted from the Columbus Dispatch.
Learn more about real people who are homeless at invisiblepeople.tv

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • An interesting perspective, Daniel. This is such a rich story and there are SO many lessons we can learn from this. There's the angle that good stories sell. There's the amazing power of social media. I wrote today about how we can learn a little about marketing from Ted.

    But, I really like your take on it. This is probably the greatest lesson of all – don't judge a book by it's cover. There are plenty of Ted's in the world. Are we treating them with kindness and respect? Are we giving them a fair shake despite their outward appearance?

    Thanks for the thought provoking post. Yes, we're now all rooting for Ted. But, there are plenty of other people out there worth cheering for too.

    • Thanks Laura. I'll head over and see what you wrote soon. Indeed, lots of lessons out of this and certainly the viral – social media perspective as well. I'm praying for Ted in hopes that he can stay the course when all this buzz wears off. Much easier to slide down the mountain than it is to climb up it but he can (we can) if we take it one step at a time.

  • Sonia

    I absolutely love this story! God bless the reporter who made the tape of Ted Williams and
    uploaded it. He paved the way for this new path to open and Ted's second chance to begin. What a blessing! He does have a marvelous voice. How his life has changed.
    America loves "second chance stories".
    There are so many homeless today. Many folks if honest know that they are one major illness,
    layoff, or precariously close to finding themselves possibly in similar circumstances. Or know of someone who could be. There but for the grace of God go I… .
    I've given money to a woman frequently seen by the post office, here in Texas. I had some
    one say to me that she returns there often, that she should work. "I'm sure that she'd rather not
    live on the street", was my comment," this is one of the safer locations".
    "Judge not…".

  • Deborah Blair

    The media needs to let Ted "HALT"! never get too…… H- hungry, A- angry, L- lonely, T- tired.
    Ted has a second chance at life and if he tries to keep up the pace that he has over the last couple days to please the public, well, all I can say is that the story will be better if the media waits and lets him adjust to his new life. Let Ted get some sleep, and eat and adjust!

  • Daniel,

    I reached your blog since I read Chris Brogan's post on the book you sent him. I have to congratulate you for really making a difference. The two videos you included really get the message through. I have really been trying to make changes to help out others. Like you I am a fan of @hardlynormal's work in InvisiblePeople.tv

    It is people like you that make the changes we need in this world. Thanks once again for sharing.

  • Pingback: Golden Voice = Ted Williams()

  • About a year ago we stopped at a rest stop to go to the bathroom. A woman came up to me and told me a story about her car broken down and how she need $19 for something. I asked her how she was getting home (knowing full well it wasn't about a car). She said her friend had come to pick her up but didn't have enough money, on and on. I saw the man in the car and felt a bit sick in my stomach.

    I decided to go to the atm with her and get her $20. We only had about $200 in the bank so it was a tough decision to make. When we went I got out the money and handed it to her, she thanked me and asked for my address so she could return it. I gave her a big hug and said, "please be well, please take care of you."

    That is why I needed to give her the money, not for the money, but for the hug. I sensed that there had not been many hugs for her in a long time.

    I think about her often. I wonder about her life and decisions. I also remember that day because I tend to get locked in fear and immediately would have said, no I am sorry I don't have any money, rather than walking with her into a building and getting money for her.

    Sometimes, the risk is worth it. Reaching past the fear and discomfort. Perhaps that moment did more for me. It showed me how precious that $20 was for both of us. And hopefully, how important that hug was for us as well.

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