Let us now praise famous men.
We have lost one of such extraordinary and exceptional generosity that I ask all who have decency in their hearts to pause and consider what we might do together to fill the vacuum.
I ask one more thing as well—that we focus all our energies on the pure specialness of the man—on the enormity of his heart –on the lives he touched and that we leave it right there and focus on nothing else.
For decades I was blessed with the opportunity to work with Robin Williams—not in movies…nor Broadway…nor on a screen of any size. My pleasure was to watch him share his genius in helping the people less fortunate…the poor …the hungry…the disabled, broken and paralyzed. With people in pain.
Many celebrities have a passion for appearing at important public events, making press statements and advocating, and even entertaining donors on a large scale. Robin did all of that and much much more. Whenever the occasion arose, which with Robin meant at ANY unpredictable moment, he would leap from the stage, or dismount his bike, stop what he was doing and engage.
We have all seen celebrities mingle; others delight in working the crowd. What Robin did was something different, more personal, and more hand to hand.
He embraced. He validated. He teased. He loved.
For decades Robin Williams gave his time unceasingly to The Robin Hood Foundation, The Reeve Foundation and World Team Sports. These are just the charities I knew—and it is far from an exhaustive list. With The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation he was a constant. Theirs was a lifelong friendship. Often guided by his former wife Marsha he practically beamed himself into the hearts of people coping with paralysis. He had the greatest single secret for connecting with the throngs of people in chairs who clamored for a moment of his attention: “How’s the air down there chief?”
He treated them as human beings, equals, peers, comrades. Even when he teased them there was a single word to describe the interaction: Dignity.
He treated those of us who are broken, scared, paralyzed and alone with such dignity.
On many occasions during World Team Sports rides where wounded veterans and chair bound athletes participated in extraordinary challenge events like biking across the USA, I would pass a group of cyclists pulled into a pod by the side of the road. No cameras, no photo op. Just a circle of hand cycles surrounding as if an embrace a solitary rider who engaged them one on one in laughter, conversation and tears. Robin was holding court.
We finally got to the point where we designed such impromptu rest stops into our schedule because Robin was…well…incorrigible. He could not be stopped from doing so and every rider in the large group wanted their audience with him. Robin was the pope of the ride and there was just one word to describe the interactions: Love
At Robin Hood, a poverty fighting organization with gala attendees who enjoy an embarrassment of riches, Robin Williams rose as no one else could to point out the essential absurdity of the premise—taking from the rich and giving to the poor. He lashed out at injustices that the poor all face and the imbalance of economic wellbeing “You guys should try a new game” Williams elbowed a few thousand attendees at a recent benefit “Who ISN’T a millionaire?” Then he launched– C’mon folks your brothers and sisters are hungry and homeless and you owe them a roof and a good meal and a chance at a life. You can do this and I know deep down you really want to….
Through all his chiding there was one word that described the interaction: Humanity.
This compassionate soul gave more performances large and small at the three charities I mention here than any entertainer on the planet. No one else comes close in frequency. Extrapolating to the dozens of other charities he supported you see a body of work that dwarfs what almost any other celebrity has done. He was constant, he was engaged and he was totally involved no matter what other demands were being made on him.
And the total cost for all of these hundreds and hundreds of interactions, the total tab for his constant caring and advocacy and hand holding and warm embrace? The due bill for touching tens of thousands of people in pain?
Zero. Not a penny for his thoughts.
So may I ask in the name of Robin Williams that we regard this great and famous man with these single words which defined exactly how he treated all of us: Dignity, Love and Humanity?
Lord knows he has earned that right. We owe him that much.
And how much quarter should we give to the turgid prose that cooks in the cauldrons to assault this now defenseless warrior for his fellow man and woman?
Zero. Not a penny for their thoughts.
Bless you Robin. We need a legion more of you and we lost all we had. Good slumber to you friend. You have earned a lasting rest in peace.