Inspired by Robin Williams

I was running errands recently in the hustle and bustle of urban life. It all seemed so helter skelter, unorganized, chaotic. A thought came to me: I wonder what we can do to make life more hospitable. Big word. Unusual word. Don’t know that I’ve used it much at all, and yet, there it was.  How do we make things better?

I went into the bank. The teller shared her story of having been bitten by a spider and being laid up for months. Even though I had wanted to make a quick dash into the bank, I listened. She got to share. I later realized I’d made the world a little more hospitable just by listening.

I walked across the alleyway to the wild bird store. A haggard woman with blonde thinning hair and was waiting to greet me. She didn’t brighten until I talked with her about the yellow birds I’d seen just the day before. This was her love. I’d made the world a little more hospitable by taking an interest in what interested her.

An unknown woman came toward me on the street. Our eyes meet. We both smiled broadly. Connection was made. Making the world more hospitable means risking vulnerability for the sake of reaching another.

The Mork and Mindy House

A more powerful example happened today. A series of events led me serendipitously passed the Mork and Mindy house. Mork and Mindy was a TV show filmed in the 1970’s in Boulder, Colorado. That’s where I live. The series showcased some of Robin Williams’s earliest work, at a time when he was just finding his brilliance. (I hear he would pop into Boulder clubs from time to time and spontaneously entertain the crowds.)

Robin Williams died last week. Suicide they tell us. Bringing so much hilarity to us, this brilliantly gifted man remained unhappy in his own life. When I passed by the “Mork and Mindy” house today cars were double parked, in the middle of the street, and there were lines of people taking pictures, leaving words, gifts, flowers-creating a memorial. One of the notes was signed “Mrs. Doubtfire.” A rock read, “Shazbot.” A love note ended simply, “Nanu Nanu.” All Morkisms. Little reminders of Robin Williams’s life that meant something to those who offered them.

As people came to pay their respects and leave their offerings, I was moved to tears at this outpouring of making the world more hospitable. I realized that hospitable also means to share meaning. It’s becoming clear that making this earthly home more hospitable has everything to do with how we treat one another: listening, taking an interest, risking vulnerability, and sharing meaning. That is how we make things better.

Farewell Robin

Robin Williams, wherever you are, I hope you know that each lit candle, each flower, each note, all the combined memories are just for you. It is our attempt to make this world a little more hospitable.