Today, the world mourns the death of its funniest man, who, in the end, couldn’t find that last laugh that might have prevented him from taking his own life. He assumed so many personalities except the one he needed the most — himself. He was uncomfortable in his own shoes, so he got used to everyone else’s, and for that reason, he had a huge amount of compassion for people from all walks of life, in all situations. No one could stand in someone else’s shoes better than Robin Williams.
He left so much of himself all over our pop culture that it will be impossible to not encounter pieces of him everywhere. Even down to his rendition of The Night Before Christmas with the Boston Pops Orchestra that is a centerpiece of our Christmas music every year, or his audio version of the legend of Pecos Bill that we shared often with our children; he is a national treasure that will live on through his art form.
With all that he left us, it might be best to remember him for that ability to identify with someone else’s character so much so that he became that person. (Think Mrs. Doubtfire, or Peter Pan.) That ability is something we could all use more of — the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes — to get out of our own situation long enough to understand someone else’s world. It’s an unselfish quality that helps us relate to others in a real way.
Bob Zmuda, creator of “Comic Relief” said this: “The first time we went to one of the shelters in downtown L.A., on skid row, when he got up in front of the homeless folk, he froze. He was so taken aback.” What was that, if not to be completely overwhelmed by stepping inside their own reality? Bob went on: “The director of the homeless shelter came back and he asked Robin, ‘What happened? They love you and they expect you to be funny.’ So he went back out and killed.”
That’s what we could use more of — to see the world as others see it. Relationships are what we are all about, but you can’t have a relationship if you are stuck inside your own reality.
It was said of Jesus that he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Whose grief and sorrow was that, do you suppose? Certainly not His own. Jesus did not walk around feeling sorry for himself. It was the grief and sorrow of everyone else that He felt so deeply. It’s why He wept.
Perhaps, in the end, that grief and sorrow was too much for Robin Williams. We can only hope that in his passing, he accepted the hand of the One who so identified with us that He died our death and rose again to bring us through death to the other side. Maybe, in the end, Robin will have the last laugh after all.
Watch this short video message for more of my thoughts on the passing of Robin Williams, click here to view them.