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By now, much of America is familiar with Ted Williams, 53, an Ohio panhandler whose life was shattered by addiction.
Before descending to the streets, Williams had worked as a radio announcer. When begging, he held a sign that began with the words “I have a God-given gift . . .” and went on to offer to use it to entertain people who gave him money.
Williams was videotaped using his “golden voice,” (which is truly extraordinary) and the tape hit YouTube. Millions of views later, Williams found himself being interviewed on national television and being offered jobs with the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For me, and I suspect for most of you, the lesson here isn’t about the instantaneous fame that the Internet makes possible. That add-water-and-stir kind of celebrity is more of a threat to our humanity than anything likely to sustain it. Neither is Ted Williams a saint; his behavior at many points during his life was reprehensible. The lesson is in Ted William’s sign and his willingness to hold it up, even amidst adversity.
See, Ted Williams never lost sight of the fact that God had a plan for him. God gave him a gift. His voice moved people, and Williams knew that that was true and knew that such a fact defied any scientific explanation. He must have known, with every word he spoke, even when some of those words were lies and manipulations, that God had not forsaken him.
He still had at least a little faith. And a little faith can go a very long way.
What’s more, Ted Williams—for all of his failings (which are many)—never lost the courage to live, nor the courage to say what he believed his path in life should be. He held up a sign telling anyone who might meet him, even those who would just glance at him quizzically and race away, that he had value and that it was bigger than him or the driver in the car accelerating past him. It was inexplicable. It was a miracle.
I hope and I believe that Ted Williams is telling the truth when he says that he sober, because I know in my heart that having the strength to say “no” to debasing oneself and destroying oneself and running from oneself is such a big part of the formula for finding oneself and one’s gift in this life. It is a very big part of sharing that gift with others. Drunk, staggering, high, I do not believe that Ted Williams would have had his talent on display, let alone have it recognized by so many others.
Here is the lesson of Ted Williams: Believe in the gifts God has given you. Believe that your abilities and dreams and core self-esteem can survive anything. Believe that they can take you from the streets and lift you up and restore you—if only you have courage and faith to begin the journey.
So, today, right now, sit back for one or two minutes. Or give yourself five.
Think about what your sign would say if you were homeless and begging at the side of a road.
“I have a God given gift for ________________.”
Return to the question again and again until you can fill in the blank. Don’t settle for anything less than something that feels like it is completely true. Then, my friends, go out and do that very thing. It could change your life. It could change the lives of others.
It could change the world.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. He is a New York Times best-selling author, and co-author, with Glenn Beck, of the book "The 7: Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life". Dr. Ablow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.