Back in 2010 Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice, became an instant YouTube sensation due to his phenomenal radio announcer voice. He appeared on television shows such as Today and Dr. Phil and was offered a paid-for rehab opportunity, which he left after only 12 days. This is the last I have heard of Ted Williams, leaving me somber over the sad tragedy of addiction which drew him back in, and the loss of the radio job he was to begin.
I was musing on this the other day with someone. I said that it broke my heart and that I always wondered what happened to Ted. It was such an inspirational story, and I always loved his eyes and smile and presence. I love stories of human triumph and I had high hopes, along with the rest of the nation, for Mr. Williams.
My partner in conversation felt completely different and somewhat shocked me, stating that she had a hard time feeling sorry for people like that, meaning people who are given a chance only to blow it once, twice, or repeatedly. It seemed to not matter how many times. The ultimate verdict in her eyes was that he got what he deserved. It was his fault he chose to return to his addiction, his fault he lost the once-in-a-lifetime chance he was given through his instant new-found fame.
Perhaps you notice that I said I was only “somewhat shocked.” This is because I am, for some reason, highly attuned to judgmental attitudes. I pick up on judgment like a hound dog, sniffing it out in the slightest of comments that people make. However, most people aren’t slight about their judging of others at all. They seem to think there is nothing wrong with criticizing the flaws of others, and unfortunately backing it up with religion or the Bible.
Yes, sadly the Bible is a weapon in the hands of many who call themselves Christians. I’m not just talking about the obvious kind of judgmental professed Christian who get labeled as hypocrites. I’m talking about happy, smiling, high-on-Jesus professed Christians. Or the very devoted church going professed Christians, like my partner in conversation who disdained this man’s mishandling of grace.
Judgment is so grossly prevalent in people of all walks of life. If you’re paying attention, you’ll see that it literally oozes out of people’s mouths. It taints their tone of voice even when they water their words down to appear less harsh and severe towards others. I see it as a deep sickness in the psyche of all of humanity. I see it so much that very ironically, the hardest people for me not to judge are those who do judge. Crazy twist, huh?
So what is the solution to this spiritual problem of judging others? Some people might think grace is the answer, and I do believe it can be an answer. However grace is giving others what they don’t deserve. It is gifting the person with goodness unearned. To me, mercy is the more fitting answer. Mercy is the withholding of punishment or consequences that are rightfully deserved. It gives nothing, save for a pardon. It is letting people off the hook and not giving them the judgment their actions may naturally or morally call for.
I love mercy and grace both. To me they are two sides of one coin, two hands of the same body. I love stories of redemption, grace and mercy. Ted William’s story was one of grace. He was discovered through that YouTube video, and as a result people wanted to give to him. They gave him grace, they gave him things he didn’t earn on his own. It was free and unmerited. But the minute he fell from grace, he fell out of the media, out of the public eye, and into the merciless attitudes of the many.
I have searched for information on Ted to see if there is anything new reported on what became of him. The most recent date I find is May 2012, where he is reported to have written a book called The Golden Voice: How Faith, Hard Work, and Humility Brought Me from the Streets to Salvation. He started a project aimed at supporting homeless people and shelters, is a public speaker on the issue of homelessness, and lives and works in Boston.
Why haven’t these positive things been reported? Is it because people gave up after Ted forfeited his once in a lifetime chance? As if one chance were all he was allotted? And why is there nothing more about him on the internet or his website http://www.tedthegoldenvoice.com past May of 2012? Did Ted fall into old patterns again? Or do people want to cheer only when the cheering is popular, only when the redemption is extravagant, and only when the redeemed individual stays the course, minding his p’s and q’s?
I plan to get Ted’s book. I’d love to hear his story. I’d love to see more of him, whether he’s transgressed, regressed, oppressed, or successed. He is dearly loved by God, who is the only rightful Judge, yet who extends both grace and mercy not just once, but countless times, lavishly, ridiculously. It is water to my soul to receive mercy and grace. It is nourishment in the deepest places to likewise see others experience mercy and grace.
Humanity is a caked and dried earth, crusted and brittle. Hardened hearts unaccustomed to receiving mercy subsequently give its opposite of judgment. The only way to break the cycle and heal this common sickness is to let mercy heal us first, to let our own selves off the hook and embrace God’s withholding of consequence and punishment. In the tendering of our own hearts by mercy, we will then feel softer, think kinder, and act more mercifully towards those who are no better or worse than us.