A Little Known Robin Williams Story:
“Years ago I learned a very cool thing about Robin Williams, and I couldn’t watch a movie of his afterward without thinking of it. I never actually booked Robin Williams for an event, but I came close enough that his office sent over his rider.
For those outside of the entertainment industry, a rider lists out an artist’s specific personal and technical needs for hosting them for an event- anything from bottled water and their green room to sound and lighting requirements. You can learn a lot about a person from their rider. This is where rocks bands list their requirement for green M&Ms (which is actually a surprisingly smart thing to do).
This is also where a famous environmentalist requires a large gas-guzzling private jet to fly to the event city, but then requires an electric or hybrid car to take said environmentalist to the event venue when in view of the public.
When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found. He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work.
I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that. I’m sure that on his own time and with his own money, he was working with these people in need, but he’d also decided to use his clout as an entertainer to make sure that production companies and event planners also learned the value of giving people a chance to work their way back.
I wonder how many production companies continued the practice into their next non-Robin Williams project, as well as how many people got a chance at a job and the pride of earning an income, even temporarily, from his actions.
He was a great multiplier of his impact. Let’s hope that impact lives on without him. Thanks, Robin Williams- not just for laughs, but also for a cool example.”
Reposted with permission from brianlord.org
Like it did for so many other people, the death of Robin Williams felt devastating. His life impacted so many people and brought countless hours of laughter into a world that is at times dark and hopeless. What is hard to grasp is that behind his soft smile and loving heart was an intense pain that no one could ever really understand except for him.
Depression, anxiety and trauma are pervasive experiences across all demographics and socioeconomic statuses. This is true amongst those experiencing homelessness on the streets in our city as well. I was not surprised that Robin Williams included in his rider a requirement to hire homeless folks for his projects. Often times people that are trapped by the darkness they feel are able to ease that pain through alleviating distress in the people around them.
Perhaps Robin Williams was a steward of his fame and he used his privilege to employ people with less opportunities for paid work. Or, perhaps, Robin was able to relate to the pain of the people experiencing homelessness he hired. He saw something in them that he saw in himself and he wanted to alleviate their struggle because he did not know how to alleviate his own.
Suicide never makes sense--especially to those that have never experienced the feeling of pain so extensive that death is the only possible answer. Yet, according to the Department of Health in the State of Washington, in 2011 suicide was the 8th leading cause of death and contributed to 992 deaths. Further, the DOH reports concluded that suicide was the second leading cause of death among youth ages 15-24. One of the main tools of prevention that we as family members, partners, friends, coworkers, students and community members have is to talk openly and often about depression and suicide.
When supporting loved ones in our lives that are dealing with depression, anxiety and/or feelings of suicide, sometimes the most impactful thing we can do is simply notice. Ask the question, "are you feeling suicidal?" When people feel noticed and validated in their pain, it becomes easier for them to move through it.
Pain transcends the classifications we have created for each other in society. It is not always easy to be good to ourselves or to each other. But, if we choose to notice one another and choose to notice the parts of life that are dark we can begin to move through them.
Resources: Locally, the Crisis Clinic is an invaluable resource for people that are having suicidal thoughts, feelings and ideations. They also provide trainings and have an extensive library of resources to help people learn how to support those in their lives grappling with feelings of suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is another resource for people to call and learn more about suicide prevention.
If anyone has questions or would like more resources, please don't hesitate to write.