Tuesday, August 12, 2014

                                          Owed to a Dead Poet


      Many years ago, when I was newly divorced and struggling with issues of sadness, depression and lonliness, I wanted to find a unique way to motivate my students and touch their lives. I always wanted to do more, be more than “just a teacher.” Robin Williams was there for me, ready to be my teacher, even though he had no idea who I was. My classroom was my stage, and at some level, he became my director.

     As I sit here watching the incredible outpouring of love and sorrow for an entertainment icon who took his own life, I can’t help but remember how he touched mine.

     After I watched his stunning performance as a teacher in “Dead Poets Society,” I climbed up on my desk and taught from the blotter. After I watched “Patch Adams,” I bought a big red clown nose and wore it to make a point in one of my grammar lessons.
The lessons were in French, but the message came through Robin Williams.

     Several weeks ago, I borrowed a video tape from a friend. It was a series of interviews by Alan King of numerous comedians from Jack Benny through Jerry Seinfeld. When it came to the one with Robin Williams, I felt the contagious electricity in this man’s performance. He couldn’t stop performing. He could not just answer the question; he took over the stage--bigger than life. I laughed, but I could not stop thinking about the unstoppable imagination and wit of this man who captured the hearts of so many all around the world with his incomparable style.

     It is rather ironic that in some of his most memorable performances (“Dead Poets Society,” “Patch Adams,” “Good Morning Viet Nam,” “Good Will Hunting,” there is pain, both physical and emotional. Now that we realize the depth of his own  struggle with depression, we can more easily grasp why his performances were so convincing and thought-provoking. 

     My heart is heavy this morning as I look at the world from with a different perspective. All the old trite sayings like  “live for the moment,” “count your blessings,” “walk in someone else’s shoes,” seem to rush into my head. The death of this very troubled genius who made the world laugh brings tears to my eyes and sorrow to my heart. I will never forget his energy, his passion, his talent, his sensitivity and his generous heart. 
It just reenforces my own mantra “Laughter is contagious; spread the virus.” Let us remember him in smiles, not tears. Let’s find more ways to share the joyous spirit he has left us as we struggle to see the good in the world.