New Year's Lessons from Ted Williams and Doral Chenoweth--the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan:
by Mary Beth Coudal
Ted Williams is the man with the golden voice who has been vaulted to global media attention this week after more than 13 million people saw him on a YouTube video.
But less well known is Doral Chenoweth, III, the Columbus Dispatch photographer who videotaped Mr. Williams asking for money with a cardboard sign. In this rags-to-riches story, we find New Year's lessons from the words and lives of both Mr. Williams and Mr. Chenoweth.
Talk to One Another
While Mr. Williams' handwritten sign and his appearance seemed at odds with his rich radio voice, we cannot "judge a book by its cover," said Mr. Williams on the morning news.
For his part, the videographer Mr. Chenoweth, who is United Methodist, sees beyond homelessness when he meets a person living on the street. Why? He told CNN, "It's part of my faith. You may not be able to help someone with money, but you can at least say hello, how you doing, and look at them."
Making eye contact can forge a common bond of humanity. As the CNN report implies, the parable of the Good Samaritan is a reminder to stop and talk to a stranger, not simply drive or walk by.
Follow the Golden Rule
"Treat people as you would want them to treat you," Mr. Williams told the morning news anchors of The Today Show. Urbanites may ignore homeless people out of fear, but when we greet strangers with kindness, even a simple smile, we create a better and more equitable world. As the old saying goes, "A stranger is just a friend I haven't met yet."
When we meet people of a different class, gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion, we may feel an instinct to roll up our windows. But when we overcome our fears and embrace our differences, we gain a friend.
Do Small Acts of Kindness
The moment of hearing a stranger's story is a moment of possibility. It is in this moment of openness that we live out one of the four Focus Areas of The United Methodist Church, which is Ministry with the Poor. This is not a church-wide concern because elected leaders have declared it, but because the person in the pew, like Mr. Chenoweth, has made ministry with the poor a way of life.
Mr. Chenoweth photographed his mission work in Kenya and Tanzania with his family and his church, New Life United Methodist Church, yet his videotape of a daily and close-to-home mission encounter made him famous. He did the unexpected by including and listening to someone who had been disenfranchised.
The story of Mr. Williams' redemption is full of religious themes. The videotape reunited the estranged Mr. Williams with his mother, Ms. Julia Williams, who exclaimed when she saw him, "My prodigal son has come home."
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One response from The United Methodist Church to the scourge of alcoholism and drug abuse and related violence is the ministries of SPSARV (Special Program for Substance Abuse and Related Violence). To learn more, go to: www.umspsarv.org. There you will find information on the movie "Lost in Woonsocket," about two men, not unlike Mr. Williams, who struggled with substance abuse, homelessness, and recovery. To discuss the movie, there is a downloadable Bible Study. SPSARV offers trainings for church members, young people, and communities to minister and understand men, women, and families who live and struggle with diseases of addiction.
Date posted: Jan 10, 2011