Demons in the head, angel in the heart. Since Robin Williams' tragic suicide last week, the world has mourned him fiercely. But despite the sadness of his passing, the most important legacy he left was one of kindness, joy, and laughter. Stories have come flooding in of the actor's legendary acts of compassion and the small things he did every day to be kind to those around him.
Yet it seems that those were just the tip of the iceberg, and it's entirely possible that Robin Williams may have been the world's greatest, quietest humanitarian. At a time when he was facing his own daunting struggles, he still took pains to reach out to those who were at their lowest points and pull them up with his mix of compassion, humor, and humanity.
Check out the below video, originally shared with New Zealand's Sunday Star Times:
That's a video that Williams made a few months ago for young mother and terminal cancer patient, Vivian Waller, 21, of New Zealand. Waller was diagnosed with bowel cancer, and when it spread to her lungs and liver, she decided to create a bucket list to achieve all that she could in her last days, including getting married and being a part of her daughter Sophie's first birthday party. Another wish? To meet Robin Williams.
Unfortunately, Waller now resides in a hospice and was far too weak and sick to travel the distance to meet her favorite star, so Williams, hearing of her plight, obliged by sending her this video. Short and sweet, it was filled with his unique mixture of zany humor and gentle compassion. Vivian's husband, Jack, shared the video with the outlet after news of Williams' death.
But that's not the only time Williams has reached out in his own quiet way, away from the spotlight, to bring a bit of joy to those suffering.
Actively involved with the Make-a-Wish foundation, Williams also surprised Jessica Cole. Originally intending to fly her out to meet him in California, she, like Vivian Waller, was too sick to make the visit the day before the trip was scheduled. And that's when Williams sprang into action reported WFMY News:
The very next day, Jessica's family got a call from Williams that he was chartering a plane to meet the little girl at her own home in Greensboro, North Carolina. He spent the entire day with her, hanging out, watching football and playing cards.
Another organization Williams supported was the United Service Organization, with whom the actor traveled constantly to visit deployed troops in Baghdad, Kuwait, and Afghanistan.
Once, while on stage during his 2008 tour to Camp Arifijan, Williams' bit was interrupted mid-sentence by the retreat ceremony and American flag being lowered to trumpet fanfare. Williams immediately removed his hat and bowed his head in respect. And then, of course, got the troops laughing again to ease their minds with a bit of humor as only he could.
"I come here for you...because I think you're amazing," the actor told the troops. And he truly thought so. While most comedians will do an obligatory visit to deployed troops, Williams returned again and again over the years to bring joy to those in war-torn places far away from home.
The actor was also involved - again without drawing attention to himself - with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a nonprofit that allows people with disabilities to play sports in a comfortable setting. It was there that he met and inspired Ironman athlete Rudy Garcia-Tolson. When he was 5 years old, Garcia-Tolson had both legs amputated above the knee. With Williams as a teammate, Garcia-Tolson completed his first relay triathlon in 1998, and the pair had been friends since. Garcia-Tolson has gone on to win two Paralympic gold medals as well as being the first ever above-the-knee double amputee to complete an Ironman competition.
Over the years, Williams completed eleven - ELEVEN! - triathlons with CAF. In 2002, Rudy won Nike's Casey Martin Award, and Williams took a red-eye flight to the Nike HQ in New York City to surprise his friend and constant teammate.
Not solely about sports, the pair also formed a bond over a mutual love of video games. Every few months, Williams would send his young friend a box of video games, after which they'd compare notes and play together.
Garcia-Tolson had this to say about his famous friend after his passing on his personal website:
Mr. Robin, I’ll always cherish the times we had together. You showed not only me, but the whole world, that it’s okay to be different–and that the power of humor can change lives. I can never thank you enough for going out of your way to make me smile. Thank you for making me the luckiest kid alive. Thank you for being a heck of a friend. My heart goes out to the Williams family. We all have lost someone very special. “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” -RW #TeamBraveHeart
Along with a tweet about something Williams had said to him that maybe sums up the spirit of goodness that Robin Williams brought to everything he did:
Was there ever anyone with a better soul than Robin Williams?
To donate to the fund for little Sophie Waller, click here.
To support the troops through USO, donate here.
To get involved with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, visit their website.