I’m not gonna lie. For the last 48 hours or so, I have been in a fog. Ever since I read on my phone that Robin Williams had taken his own life, I’ve been really sad. Maybe it could better be classified as heartbroken. It was almost like I lost part of my family. Not the 3rd cousin twice removed kind but a close family member who “everyone loves and can’t wait for the holidays to roll around so you could spend sometime with them” kind of family. I never met Mr. Williams. Even writing it like that seems strange. So let me try again…I never met Robin. We never crossed paths. He never came to my house nor did I ever visit one of his Hollywood dressing rooms. But I felt as if I knew him and it was no wonder because I had literally spent hundreds of hours with him.
This may seem really strange to some. How can you mourn someone whom you have never met? How can you feel a kinship with someone who was thousands of miles away? It was easy. You see when I was growing up in rural North Carolina, I was never the most popular kid. I was an only child so the majority of my days were spent alone. Most of my alone time was spent in front of the television making friends. Super Friends, Ultraman, G-Force, Goldar, Silvar and Gam (you’re gonna have to Google that one). I would lose my boring reality and escape into the wonderful world of late 70s early 80s television. Then came that Thursday night that would impact me for 35 years. It was September 14, 1978, and I was at home watching TV. A new show was premiering that I was all excited about, Mork and Mindy. I can remember to this day how it made me feel. I loved it! This was the night that I welcomed Robin into my family.
Our relationship grew as his filmography grew and as we both got older. I remember sneaking in to see The World According to Garp at a ripe old age of 13, just to see Robin Williams. It was rated “R” and I didn’t get most of what was going on but it was Robin. I continued to see nearly all of his movies through the years, even Cadillac Man, Bicentennial Man and Hook. I’m not proud of those 3 but I saw them nonetheless. To this day, Aladdin is my favorite movie ever. Just let that sink in for a minute. The favorite movie of a 45 year old pastor in Baltimore, is a cartoon about a vagrant who finds a bootle with a genie in it. Don’t judge me.
Our relationship was not always easy though. Every time in his stand-up routine that he would mention God (or religion in general) it would make me upset. “Come on Robin. Why do you have to go there?” There was the occasional time where his observations of God would just make me laugh before my “moral” compass would kick in.
As a pastor and a leader, I must be careful what I comment on and what I don’t. People can very easily take anything that I say or write and take it in the opposite direction than it was intended. However, in this case, I have come to the conclusion that in a lot of ways, Robin was more of a Christian than I am. Again, I am a pastor! I am a minster! It is my God ordained responsibility to lead people to Jesus and I can honestly say that he, in some ways, displayed a more positive picture of what a true follower of Jesus should look like.
He was Nice
This is the simplest of his traits but it bears the deepest view of who this man truly was. Robin Williams was a genuinely nice man. As I tore through the many internet posting and past articles, I couldn’t find a single account of Robin being mean, short or even curt towards people. I wish you could say that about me. I’m sure my wife wishes she could say that about me too. I, as a pastor, many times feel pulled in many different directions and this can frazzle me. Those who are closest to me sometimes pay the price for this.
In times like these, I seem to have forgotten the fine art of being kind to people. I’m pretty sure that when it all is said and done, many will not make it to Heaven just because they were not nice to people. You may be asking yourself, “Where in the Bible does it say that I have to be nice to people?” Well, Jesus didn’t use the word “nice” when referring to how we should treat people. He did say, however, that we should “love our neighbors” (Matthew 22:39) and you can’t get to love without going through nice. How different would the world be if we were all a bit nicer to each other?
He was Generous
According to reports, in Robin’s rider one of his requests was that companies that desired his services were required to hire homeless people for various jobs on site. Although some may view this as a mere act of goodwill or even a gimmick to gain favorable press, I see this as a window to a man’s heart. He was a giver. Even when it didn’t seem to benefit him in any way.
According to Jesus in Luke 6:35 we should all be willing to “…do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return…”. We should all be willing to utilize our positions, possessions and our influence to help others even if we seem to have nothing to gain from it. How much different would the world be if we were all more generous with the things that we have?
He was Open about His Struggles
Robin by most accounts was as transparent as you would ever find in Hollywood. He was never shy about the challenges that plagued him. I can remember numerous times in his stand-ups where he would reference his addictions, his health and even his shortcomings as a father, husband and a man.
What if we were all like this? What if we were all so honest about our missteps? I believe that this is exactly what Paul meant when he wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2a). I believe that one of the major drawbacks to being open about struggles today is the simple fact that we don’t want to look bad. We want to save face. We want others to believe that we’ve got it all together. The fact is though, if we are honest, there is only one reason why we don’t. We’re prideful. We don’t want to be embarrassed and this simple act is a sin. In James 4:6, Paul tells us that “…God opposes the proud…”. I interpret this to mean that all of Heaven is in opposition to us when we are prideful and arrogant. How different would the world be if we were more open about our shortcomings, failures and struggles?
He was Compassionate
As new information continues to come out about Robin’s death, I just can’t seem to get past the idea that this man that has made me and millions of others laugh throughout the years was himself struggling with depression. In the end this man who spent the majority of his life pouring joy into the lives of others, found himself empty. He gave until emotionally there wasn’t much left to give. He lived to make others laugh. He lived to bring joy into the lives of other people. What if we all possessed this attribute? What if we were each so filled with compassion, that the happiness of others was more important that our personal comfort? What if we all gave until those around us were better off than we were?
What would this world look like if we had more people that possessed these qualities? What would our cities look like? What would our communities look like? What would our churches look like? What would our homes look like? What would our families look like? What would we look like?