I just met Robin Williams on the Subway.
That just happened to me.
But you know what… tonight’s blog post isn’t just about Robin Williams, it’s about another man I met on the subway tonight: Tom.
So I’m sitting on the A train after a nine-hour day at work… pretty tired, reading an enthralling story in Rolling Stone about an Occupy Cleveland entrapment case, when all the sudden I hear someone mention Robin Williams.
The man across from me is upper-middle aged, has a pony tail, chin scruff and a goofy looking grin on his face. He looks at me and says, “I was just going to admire your Beatles t-shirt, but now apparently Robin Williams is riding the train! How cool is that!?”
I laughed because this guy was so friendly and jolly (just my kind of person) and we both took turns saying hello to Robin and getting pictures taken. I asked Robin about my late Aunt Connie, because I knew they were friends, and told him how she always spoke fondly of him. He looked a little sad, and said that she was a wonderful woman. It warmed my heart.
I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! First of all, someone of his status could definitely afford to take a fancy town car around Manhattan, instead of taking the subway. That was my first indication that he was a wonderful man. And secondly, how does this man have so much patience!?! Granted, most of the people on the subway train didn’t bother him, but can you imagine how much patience he must have to let people come up to him and sing his praises after DECADES of being in the business.
So anyway… Robin left at Canal street, and that’s when Tom and I picked up our conversation.
Now Tom is a 50-something veteran who works with homeless veterans in the city to help get them work. He has them cleaning the streets, training seeing eye dogs and helping cater to the Central Park horses. He talked about his job as if he was in the entertainment industry. This man could not be happier or full of life.
We started laughing about our crazy celeb sighting and he asked me a little bit about myself. I told him I was a performer at heart, but have a full-time job in the industry. He, being a guitar player himself, started talking to me about the Beatles and all the bands he grew up listening to.
I really don’t know why I had such a profound connection to this man, but I could just see that he was truly a man who devoted himself entirely to others. I told him that I worked with many impoverished people when I lived in Cincinnati, and how I really admired the work he was doing. I told him that my mother went to school for social work, and that I got my “bleeding heart” gene from my mom.
Once he found himself more comfortable with me, he told me that he recently found himself homeless and had to live in the very shelter that he WORKED at! Can you imagine the courage it took to put aside your pride and live in a homeless shelter as not a director, but as a peer. This man, who devotes himself to helping people find jobs and re-attain their lives and dignity, can barely make enough to sustain himself.
I was moved. Actually… moved is an understatement. I was changed.
I then looked him directly in the eye, put my hand on his arm, and said, “The world truly needs more people like you.”
He turned away from me and I could tell he was fighting back tears and he said, “I’m just trying to spread my love around.”
I could go on and on about how this man changed me, but I think he just summed up and reinforced everything I’ve been telling myself for the past several months…
I’m just trying to spread my love around.
It’s moments like these that I’m glad I have a heart that is open to loving and helping others.
Shannon Rose Allen