the story behind the story

by now we all know the touching and slightly pathetic story of ted williams, the homeless guy with the golden voice.  he endured ten days of fame before he entered rehab under the auspicious direction of none other than dr. phil. 

and no one  is surprised, are they?

it’s the other character in the story, though, that i am impressed with.  until i read the story by john blake on cnn, i knew nothing about doral chenowith.  apparently, he is a multimedia producer for the columbus dispatch, and he is always looking for a good story.  but his own story is the one that affected me.  let me share bits of it with you…


“The first time we dated, he stopped and gave a blanket from the back of his car to a man who was homeless,” said Robin Chenoweth. “I thought to myself, if he has this kind of compassion for a man on the street, he’s going to make a great husband and father.”

Chenoweth is paid to notice people. He’s a multimedia producer for The Columbus Dispatch newspaper in Ohio. He said he stopped because he thought Williams might make a good video.

Still, he wasn’t so sure after the filming. He said he sat on the video for five weeks until he finally decided to use it because it was a slow news week. Then he watched the video take off.

“I never anticipated this,” he said. “A week ago, he was living in a tent behind a station in the middle of December, and now he’s being flown to New York and his video is everywhere.”

But the reason Chenoweth stopped goes deeper than his job.

It’s “standard operating procedure” for him, he said, to stop and talk to people who are homeless, whether he’s carrying a camera or not.

“It’s part of my faith,” he said after some prodding about his motivations. “You may not be able to help someone with money, but you can at least say hello, how you doing, and look at them.”

About 14 years ago, Chenoweth said he was assigned to photograph a homeless ministry at New Life United Methodist Church in downtown Columbus. He was so impressed by the ability of the 50-member congregation to help the homeless that he and his wife joined.

The church’s pastor said that Chenoweth routinely invites people who are homeless to the church for meals and medical attention. He’s also photographed people on the street and displayed their photographs to emphasize their humanity, said the Rev. Jennifer Kimball Casto, New Life’s pastor.

When asked if she was surprised by Chenoweth’s action, Casto said: “Absolutely not. Doral has a special heart for people who are homeless and in need.”

Chenoweth’s concern for people goes beyond Columbus, and even the United States. His wife said they are regular Habitat for Humanity volunteers. They’ve also taken seven trips to Africa with their two children, Cassie, 12, and Kurtis, 10, to serve impoverished communities. Chenoweth has documented many of the trips on his website.

“He’s taken me all over the world,” Robin Chenoweth said. “He’s a fabulous husband. It’s the best decision of my life to be with him.”

Casto, Chenoweth’s pastor at New Life, said Chenoweth taught another lesson with his encounter with a panhandler.

“We are all broken in some way, but we are also gifted in some way,” she said. “Mr. Williams is a perfect example of that.”


several things impressed me about this story.  the first is that there is such a thing as a 50-member congregation that is focused on helping the homeless in its community.  second, is that the missional spirit of that congregation is so appealing that chenoweth and his family decided to join.  third, is that chenoweth is raising his children to serve, and to have a heart for missions and social ministry.  it seems to me that the 50-member congregation, new life united methodist church, is making a real difference in the lives of people in columbus, ohio.

i guess small really is the new big.


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