Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ted Williams Isn't The Only Homeless Man

I have been following the drama with Ted Williams and his rag to riches story.  This morning, CNN featured a commercial in which Williams did voice over work for Kraft.  I must admit that his voice is smooth, I am talking Billy Dee Williams Smooth.  The offers have flooded in for him and he was recently reunited with his mother.  Ted Williams achieving gainful employment, is just the kind of heartwarming story that people love to read about, because it cements the false belief that one can always pull oneself up by the bootstraps and get out from under.

From living on the streets, Williams now has a plethora of offers to choose from.  Companies are scrambling to create opportunities for him, so that they can benefit from the rags to riches story.  The very idea that this is some sort of outpouring of good faith among corporations is ridiculous to say the least.  While I am truly happy that Williams is receiving the opportunity to completely change his life, I cannot help but wonder about the other homeless people.  Why is this one man so deserving of a second chance when others are not?

The same people that are rushing to support Williams, daily walk by homeless people on the street.  Elevating one person, in no way means that the rest are not seen as a disposable under class unworthy of our concern.  What if Williams had not had a "God given talent?"  Would he be less worthy of the support that he is now receiving?  The magnificent rise of Ted Williams is not a feel good story, rather it is a testament to how little we care for each other because we have over valued money. People can safely give to Williams while profiting. FOX 59 Ohio news, recently went searching for "The Next Homeless Star", proving that supporting those in need of a helping hand is a waste of time, but finding someone to exploit is priceless (yep that was a play on the famous VISA commercial).

Watching the celebration of Williams reminded me of a conversation I had with a man over the holidays, in which he admonished me for giving a homeless woman change when she asked.  She never asks for much, just enough to get a coffee, but the desperation in her request is always enough to inspire me to give more.  The man in question felt that I was enabling her, because by his estimation, I was supporting her drug/alcohol habit.  Far too many believe that the reason that someone is homeless is because they are battling an addiction.  When she didn't immediately cross the street and enter the Tim Horton's to buy a coffee, he felt vindicated in his chastisement. 

Once I handed that woman the money, it was no longer mine and I lost the right to say what it was spent on.   If they are hungry they will eat and if they choose to spend the money on drugs, or alcohol, it is not a sign of their failing, but our inability to offer the proper services that they need. The homeless population is the only one that I can think of that is required to spend 100% of their income on food.  We are happy to walk by them judging them, apparently believing that this is something we should reserve the right to do.  It is not being a soft sappy liberal to give what one can afford to those that have less, it is being a decent human being.  Treating Williams like a trained monkey may seem kind, but what it really affirms, is that when money can be made, we are not above exploitation.