Robin Williams: Laughter and just a few lessons

I never knew him.

But I felt like I knew him. Just a little bit anyway.

The death and apparent suicide of Robin Williams has shocked and rocked the entertainment industry, and millions of fans around the world. It is hard to believe that the 63 year old comedian and actor is gone. It is a loss that impacts many, many people, even if they never knew him personally.

The news tonight took a little bit out of me, mainly because of how Williams presented himself to the world. Williams was public about his bouts with depression, and apparently was no longer able to deal with it and took his own life.

All of us know about how talented he was. I remember “Mork and Mindy” as a spin off of the “Happy Days” show decades ago. I was talking to a college student today about the magnitude of Williams’ death and about this show, and she acted like she had never heard about Williams. But, as I went through what I could recall about his acting contributions, I think I got her on board with some of his more recent efforts. I hope she’ll go back and do a bit of research on the broader scope of his work.

There will many people who will write tributes to Williams. There’s no way to really know what he was like unless you knew him, but I wanted to offer a few thoughts about this tragic loss of life.

First of all, people who are outwardly happy can be dealing with their own demons on the inside. It’s hard to imagine a man who brought laughter to millions could struggle so much with depression. He was wealthy, successful, well-liked, and had the admiration off many people. It wasn’t enough.

Second, despite his own struggles, he was able to bring a smile to the people around him, and we need more people like that. There’s an adage “there’s always someone else who has more problems that you.” We need to remember that.

I was reading a post on facebook by someone who was complaining about how they were unhappy about their children not getting their preferences met at school, and then I remember a family whose grandson was killed in an accident and won’t be starting kindergarten this Fall. We need to be a little more grateful about what we have when we start to complain. Maybe it would help us not to gripe so much. We should especially be mindful not to voice our “problems” in the presence of those who have endured more significant and life-changing losses. There’s no comparison.

We have so much to be thankful for. And there are many people who could be encouraged by our cheerfulness. There are people who “fill our buckets” and those who empty them. We have a finite amount of energy in those buckets, and I know I more drawn to those who fill mine than those who constantly drain it. From time to time we get sad, but we can all work on our attitude. Williams seemed to be someone who filled a lot of emotional buckets.

Third, depression is for real. It’s hard to understand how this affects the mind and a person’s thinking. Sometimes we can more readily grasp the reality of someone who is struggling outwardly having this condition. It’s much more difficult to fathom a wealthy person dealing with this problem. And, if you have someone who struggles in this way, then you can relate to the pain of what the Williams family is going through.

Finally, life can seem incredibly short and we need to enjoy the time we have. I’ve often quoted John Claypool’s statement that “Life is a gift.” We aren’t guaranteed a certain number of days in this life, so that ought to make the most of the time we have.

So, take time to tell someone how much you care about them and what they mean to you. Do it today, there’s only so much time that we have to use.

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