Robin Williams: A New Legacy

Blog: Social Issues: Getting to the Heart of What Matters, by Cheryl Patterson

I’ve heard many people talk about how the death of Robin Williams (in August) impacted them deeply, as it did me. In addition to being a funny and personable man, he touched a lot of people in different ways. His loss is still very sad. However, pain doesn’t have to be his only legacy.

There was another side to Williams, the entertainer that ended his life so tragically. He was also a very compassionate man that cared about and advocated for the well being of others.

He helped fellow comedians that were struggling financially, indicates friend and comedian, Margaret Cho, who adds, “He was the security blanket we all had.” Whether it was a helping hand with a house payment or needing money, Robin was someone people turned to. And when he wasn’t helping his friends, he was helping people on the streets.

Robin was also very passionate about helping homeless people, raising millions for them in the San Francisco Bay area – another reason why he’ll never be forgotten.

Cho, being deeply saddened by the loss of this compassionate man and having a hard time shaking it off, said she was given the advice, “Don’t mourn Robin – be Robin.” So, she started what she refers to as her “mini-baby-weirdo version” of the charity efforts made by him when he was alive.

Every day for two months during the holidays, Cho performed on the streets, in the same neighborhoods where Williams – apparently once a street performer – helped the homeless population of about 6500, to raise money for them, in addition to everything from free haircuts, to food, clothing, other necessities and “love,” as Cho puts it.

What a wonderful way to mourn someone, by helping their legacy to live on in such a positive way.

This story reminded me about an article I wrote about loss (previously in Healthy Living Magazine, 2010) called, “The stress of losing loved one’s over the holidays,” that indicated something similar, suggesting to “Create new rituals to make this [i.e. anniversary] time meaningful again.” Creating new traditions or carrying on old ones, as in Cho’s case, can be a great way to remember and honour the loss of our loved ones in a positive way.

Personally, I volunteer for the annual Hike for Hospice program in my area to help raise money for people receiving this care, in honour of my dad, who would have needed it, had he lived.

On a smaller scale, I also sometimes bake tea biscuits – something my father used to make for our Sunday family dinners. It was his day to cook, and he’d make a big meal, with some kind of roast and his famous biscuits that we all loved. And a special part of that when I was a child, was that he would save me a little dough to bake a special treat on my own with.

The point is that even with significant losses, we can turn something that’s sad or negative into something positive.

Cho’s efforts to carry on William’s legacy has helped the homeless immensely, including hugging a man that hadn’t been touched in a year, and making it feel like Christmas to another by providing him with some clothing.

This “#BeRobin ” commitment also seems to have added great meaning to Cho’s life and ultimately “touched her heart” (The New York Times, “With Memories of a Comic Comrade, Margaret Cho Helps the Homeless,” Dec 2014), as I’m sure it would have Robin’s.

Related post:
Let’s Learn From Robin Williams: Pain Doesn’t Have to be Our Legacy

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