What inspires you? What brings about in you a desire to go the extra mile? Perform an act of kindness? What makes you want to be your best? Who or what makes you want to be a better person? For most of us, that answer might include seeing a touching story of overcoming adversity, such as the story of Ted Williams, the homeless man with the “Golden Voice.” The story of Mr. Williams is very similar to the stories of homeless people everywhere–once doing well, falling on hard times for various reasons, and hitting bottom. Some people stay on the bottom, but in the case of Mr. Williams, he began to pull himself back up. One might argue that the reporter who noticed him and his golden voice, and posted a video on the Internet was the real reason Mr. Williams got off the bottom. While undeniably this was the catalyst that assisted Mr. Williams in moving so quickly from bottom to being back on stable ground, it should be noted that no reporter would have noticed Mr. Williams’ voice if Mr. Williams had not set about on his own getting clean from the drugs and the lifestyle that had led to hitting that bottom.
This story was inspirational, not only for the way Mr. Williams’ life was turned around, but for the insight and vision of the reporter who, granted while looking for advances in his career, found and told the story of a man who numbered among this nation’s invisible population.
The story of Mr. Williams made me realize that, just like everyone else, just like you and me, all people who currently number among the homeless have unique stories to tell about their lives. Sadly, when I began to research statistics for homelessness in the United States, I found two things: (1) The numbers are staggering. (2) The numbers are under-reported. There is no way to say even to a close degree of accuracy how many numbers of homeless people live in the United States. Not all people without homes make it to shelters. Many never make it to the system for various reasons. A conservative estimate by the National Coalition for the Homeless runs in the millions on any given day. We need to help in any way we can, and many of us do. Personally, I would truly love to see more people like videographer Doral Chenoweth III, the “reporter” with The Columbia Dispatch, whose video of Ted Williams went viral.
The things that inspire me as a writer are the same things that inspire me to want to be do more, go further, be better at life. As a writer, I am always on the lookout for my next inspiring hero or heroine. Often people in the news will pique my interest and then my brain begins the “what-if” process. What if this happened? (Plot.) What if the person had limited use of his hands? (Characterization.) What obstacles does this person have to overcome? (Conflict.) Where does this person live/where can we find him? (Setting.)
So when I see the story of a videographer helping a homeless man, I let those “what-if” wheels begin to turn. And if I am very lucky, very blessed, what spins out of the straw of my thoughts on life might just turn into gold that provides someone else with a bit of inspiration. Who knows?
Have you walked an extra mile for someone else lately?