Thursday, January 13, 2011

Making More Happy Endings a Reality

Happy endings are what most American movies are based on.  One can easily cite the movie The Blind Side, which tells the story of a young, homeless teenager who makes it big in football. Not only do Americans love stories with happy endings, but, maybe most people around the world are captivated by stories of people who survive and later thrive despite overwhelming odds. The story of the rescue of the Chilean miners captivated the world. Could our love for happy endings be part of why the story of Ted Williams, the homeless, talented panhandler, so quickly captured our nation’s attention?

As many people know by now, Williams was discovered standing by a thoroughfare in Ohio, carrying a sign, which said that he had an amazing voice. A local web producer challenged Williams to give a demonstration of his vocal abilities, and the video the producer made of Williams’ demonstration was uploaded to YouTube where it became an overnight sensation.

Williams has already appeared on national television shows and has signed several contracts to do voiceovers for leading national firms—a real turnaround for someone who has a rap sheet and has spent a good portion of his life fighting an addiction to cocaine and alcohol. The discovery of William’s talent gives us all an uplifting, heartwarming story with which to start the year.

But as uplifting as it is, Williams’ story also raises a serious question? How many other Williamses are there out there who are panhandling, homeless or living marginal lives of  simple desperation? How many other homeless are there on our streets who might possess amazing talents which could make positive contributions to society, if they could be supported and given a chance?

Ted Williams’ story is, obviously, exceptional. But it highlights the fact that there might be many, that are out there to be discovered, who are leading and living wasted lives. How can we reach more Ted Williamses? How can we assist them before they become panhandlers or develop a rap sheet? Of course, it needs to be said that the Ted Williamses of the world also have to do more to help themselves.

We can probably all name groups that are working with the homeless and the near homeless, that are working with those who have drug and alcohol addictions, that are working with school drop outs and with those in gangs. There are, fortunately, many groups working to help those who are just subsisting and in danger of falling over the edge turn their lives around. Many commendations should go to all of the organizations that are focused on making the happy endings, we love to see in our movies and on our computer monitors and television screens, a fact of life for so many of the desperate around us.

Since instant success has its own dangers, we can only hope that Ted Williams is successful in making the most of the opportunities he is now being given. His story highlights how it takes a village of caring individuals to save a soul. We must find more ways to extend that village of caring so that more people have access to the opportunities which make for the happy endings that so many of us love to see.