I can’t get Robin Williams off of my mind; I feel just sick about his suicide. I was watching Happy Days that night in February, 1978 when Fonzie opened the door to Mork from Ork. Robin Williams and I overlapped for seventeen years in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he used to buy his rainbow suspenders at the same Aardvark’s Used Clothing store where I shopped. We lived the same hard-partying life at the same time, although my ride was shorter and less intense. Like everyone else who admired his talent, who watched him in interviews, stand-up, and unforgettable movie roles, I was shocked to learn how much he was suffering all along.
Elder Holland knows that so many are suffering in the same way and talked about it in his October, 2013 Conference talk, Like a Broken Vessel. He specifically refers to “ . . . a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively . . . .”
My favorite line from Lord, I Would Follow Thee is “In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see.” We never know what someone else is struggling with, and despite all the publicity around Robin Williams’ suicide, all the exhortations, as Jimmy Kimmel put it on Twitter, to “tell someone if you’re sad,” it’s probably not going to happen. Some people will be more willing to reach for help, others will be more willing to offer it, but the crater in the mind is more complex than that.
The impact I hope for, the lesson I hope is most accessible to the rest of us, is to remember the hidden sorrow in others, to hold a mindset of compassion toward others whose behavior annoys, displeases, or offends us. We never know what they’re struggling with, and if we did know, I believe our compassion would rush out to them the way it does, belatedly, to Robin Williams.
I for one am going to give more people more benefit of the doubt more often.