SAN FRANCISCO (CBS Las Vegas/AP) — He was the funniest guy in the room, something that made it all the harder for friends and fans to accept that beneath that reservoir of frenetic energy and seemingly endless good humor resided demons so dark they could push Robin Williams to suicide. It was no secret that the Oscar-winning actor had suffered for years from periodic bouts of substance abuse and depression — he made reference to it himself in his comedy routines. But word that he had killed himself Monday at his San Francisco Bay Area home left both friends in the Hollywood community and neighbors in the quiet neighborhood of Tiburon that he called home equally stunned and grief-stricken. “It was so sudden and he was such a great guy and it’s such a loss to the whole community,” said Daniel Jennings who lived across the street from Williams in the quiet neighborhood where the actor was often seen riding his bike and stopping to talk to neighbors. One thing he never did, residents said, was act like a celebrity. “He was really nice to all the neighbors,” Daniels said. “Really appreciated his kindness.”
The surprise news came out yesterday that one of America's better actors had taken his own life. Many who knew him in the roles he played or by the shows he appeared on, were caught by surprise. Why would such a talented and gifted individual do that?
Why indeed, is what the world asks.
We hear and discover that life wasn't that simple for the artist. Struggles with addictions and depression left him vulnerable. Tiredness with it all wore him out. Until yesterday when he had had enough it seems.
With people who are public individuals we think we know them through TV or movies or music. Even on a lesser platform, we think we know people through their writings, blogs, and photos. Similarly when it's our neighbour who takes their life we realize that we really didn't know them, or their struggle. The truth is that we never really knew them. We didn't know their struggles or pain.
It might be impossible to know distant public figures, but it's not impossible to know your neighbour. It seems as though Robin Williams was a good neighbour, but was he known, really?
Maybe his death should be a motivation for us to really know the few people around us. Maybe we should look up from our phones, and take time and the interest to really know the people around us. To choose to care and love them. To get to know them, really.
Maybe then this great loss can bring some life to us and to this increasingly fragmented world in which we live.