a golden ticket

By now many of you have seen or heard about Ted Williams. You also may have read about his abandoned wife and children, seen the reunion on Dr. Phil, or heard about the police being called about a heated dispute with his daughter on Monday.

It is easy to be cynical about Mr. Williams. He has been a failure as a husband, father, and a drain on society in general. But that is the point. I’m sure his life has been a catalogue of squandered opportunities, failed and possibly abusive relationships, manipulations, and scandals (I know my life has featured several of these things). He does not deserve any of the blessings that he is receiving during his current 15 minutes of fame. But through weird twists of fate he is getting a second chance at life.

Early in my M Div. program, I visited a local homeless shelter and listed to the “hospitality director” perspective on homelessness. He claimed that there were enough resources in the social services of Seattle for every homeless person to have a safe place to sleep and something to eat. That is not to say that every homeless person knows how to utilize these resources or to deny that many of these programs are struggling daily to survive, but in general (in an abstract and probably simplistic way) the resources are out there to help the homeless population. According to him, homelessness is primarily a relationship issue.

Homelessness is not problem of resources but a problem of relationships.  If I were to lose my home today, there are a multitude of friends and family that would take me in and support my family and me while we got on our feet. I have a network that would provide for me in the case of emergency. Sure I have plenty of failed relationships and have burned some bridges with some, but all in all I have mostly positive relationships. My failures are buoyed by these bonds. I may have struggles but I’m still afloat.

Mr. Williams, like most homeless people, has probably burned through his relationships (or his relationships are with people with similar struggles and therefore not in a position to help him). Failure begets failure. Developing and maintaining healthy relationships become more and more difficult.  And it was probably his fault; being needy kinda makes you needy- and we all have meet people that “drain” you.

I guess the real story is what happens next. There is the human answer, which is to provide resources and services and that is totally good and necessary. But as a Christian that is not enough. We need to proclaim and bring the reign of God to them and that only happens in the context of relationship. After all, Christians are fond speaking of relationship with Jesus- many of homeless don’t know how to (or have lost the ability to) have any sort of relationship with anybody.

The director wondered what would happen if churches groups that volunteered to feed the homeless a meal once or twice a year, would instead volunteer to eat with the homeless once a week (or even month) for year, creating relationships with them. There would be lots of weirdness and failure and disappointment, many of homeless don’t know how to have (or have mental illnesses, making it extremely difficult to have) relationships (I’m not too good at it either!), but it would be a start.

Mr. William, with his golden voice, has found a golden ticket. There are probably thousands of homeless people more deserving or more talented than him. But for some reason he was “discovered.” I don’t know if he’ll make it on the “outside,” I pray that he is able to develop relationships that keep him rooted and grounded.

Just for kicks I thought I’d include this Psalm I’ve been studying over the past few days. It seems strangely appropriate.

Psalm 1


Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

2 responses to “a golden ticket

  • Sophia Kristina

    Thanks for this post, Criss. I think about that “What happens next?” question, too. Especially when Ted’s story fades out of our memory like other people and events that cause us to stop for a moment, reflect, then tarry on our way. How many more stories like Ted’s do we hear before we are moved to action? Or before we move from a reaction like “Isn’t that sad?” or “What a touching story” to asking questions like “What’s my role in all of this?”

    As people of faith, what is our response? How are we called to be incarnational to the likes of Ted and others who have been cut off from life-affirming and life-giving relationships?

  • seeing Jesus in the new year « in time and space

    […] noble(r) goal. I don’t have the resources to give to every person I see in need. As I’ve stated before, homelessness is a relationship issue as much as it is a resource issue. But as the New Year is […]

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