For us, at large. For innocent men, women and children, suffering the terror of radical hatred.
Young men who die on a country road, much too soon.
For people on planes that fall out of the sky, and those left behind.
A disease that breeds panic and fear as it slips across borders, death in its wake.
Children living in the in-between, needing a chance at life.
A country, divided and polarized, with screaming and shouting at both ends.
And then today, the loss of an American film and cultural icon; an actor whose particular brand of mania drew an affectionate and faithful audience. The death of Robin Williams is shocking and sudden; it jolts us out of our comfort zones, where our entertainment comes on our terms and timing. We were not expecting this, were we?
To learn that his death was at his own hand opens up an entirely new package of sorrow for us, and as it scrapes against the heart it is difficult to withstand the pull of despair.
There is so much darkness in this world, so much pain and tragedy. We are numb, and we numb ourselves in 90-minute chunks of cinema and music and television, opening ourselves to anything that might put off the inevitable; that still small voice that breaks through the quiet to point out, with a clear voice and a firm hand, that life is hard.
And there is so little we can do.
The Yazidi people in Iraq run for their lives; hiding on a mountain, they are starving. The children are dying of thirst.
An airliner is shot out of the sky; and so it goes. There is little that can be done. A gaping hole remains.
Parents send their children off to a foreign country for a chance at a life with purpose, something other than survival - which is not guaranteed - and a hotbed of conflict arises, while the kids remain homeless, loosely tethered to the midway seam that binds hope with despair.
Depression takes hold and roots out, finally, the willingness to persevere.
We are helpless, and we are hopeless, and sometimes there's little to do but rest in truth.
Tonight, I called the kids around me and said, "We are watching this movie." Dead Poets Society came out the year before my first child was born. I was already a teacher - but this movie set in stone before me the reason why I was a teacher. Robin Williams - always and forever - will be John Keating, to me, and Robert Sean Leonard's later role in House was always tinged with grief in my eyes, because he was Neil, and he had died. This movie set a course for many things around the perimeter of my life.
Most of all, I remember this story, how I internalized the truth of a small New England prep school and the boys and the teachers and the era and the profound impact of lives changed by literature, and words, and passion, and a teacher who cared. This movie, this story, helped me believe.
As Robin Williams first appeared on the screen tonight, it was wrenching. He is not mine to grieve; that is for his family and friends and those whose pain is infinitely beyond ours. But he planted something in this world, left pieces of himself behind - both 20-odd years ago and again tonight, and over and over and over again when he stood on a stage or in front of a camera and offered his gifts to the world. Tonight, all over again, I was profoundly impacted by the power of this story and William's talent.
My eldest son sat behind me tonight, he who leaves in four days to begin his life outside of our home. He goes in pursuit of a teaching degree, and I can think of no finer instigator towards the power and privilege of being one who makes a difference than what we watched tonight.
Carpe diem, son. Those who have gone before you have set the world ablaze and burned as long as they could. Go, and do the same.
Rest in peace, Robin Williams. We are grateful for your life. I pray you are in the arms of your Creator, and that all is well with your soul.