I’m not going to pretend to know what made Robin Williams tick or try to dig in on the disease (depression) that finally killed him. There’s lots of other people that can do that.
But I did have a run-in with Robin Williams once. I was in a Barnes and Noble in LA right after Mrs. Doubtfire, and we both converged at the check-out line at the same time. His hair was dyed blonde, so it took me a second to put the pieces together, but without even missing a beat he motioned for me to go ahead of him. I did.
And as I was standing there, with my back to him now, I suddenly realized who it was. It was a “Jesus Christ, Robin Williams just gave me his place in line’ moment. It was a rush. One of my all time favorites was standing two feet behind me.
Now, if I’d written the script, I would’ve turned around and we would have started talking about this or that. Maybe I would asked him what book he was buying, or who his favorite talk-show host was. Even his favorite restaurant in LA, something. Anything.
But I didn’t. I was completely and utterly tongue-tied.
When the cashier finally motioned that it was my turn, I did finally turn to him and say “Thanks. I really enjoy your work.” There was that twinkle in his eye that we all know, and he replied, very softly, “I appreciate that.”
Then it was over. I was out the door. He went his way, and I went mine. An incident he probably forgot immediately, a moment I’ll remember forever.
When I look back on that now, the thing that strikes me most is that one moment when he could have stepped ahead of me in line, but didn’t. That moment when he must’ve thought “This asshole looks like he’s in a real hurry, I’ll let him go ahead.” That moment of generosity.
That’s why I’m especially floored by this one. Totally sad. Feeling the void. The engine of life churning through us all. But I was especially heartened to hear all the stories like mine about his generosity, his approach, his integrity. Yes, there was the unfathomable sadness I hope to never understand, but there was also such brightness. Such boldness. Such gold.
Let us remember that as well today. And pay it forward.
Thanks for everything.