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This is Us – Lessons from William Hill

This article has spoilers from the show This is Us. If you don’t wish to know events from later in the series, please stop reading here.

My wife and I are a little late to the game in discovering the NBC show This is Us (we rarely get to watch TV due to having a couple little ones), but we finally started watching.

As with the rest of America, we’ve been captivated by the family dynamics, and the obvious affection the characters have for each other. In particular, I fell in love with William.

The biological father that Randall finally just met at 36 years of age, and at a time when William is already in the end stages of cancer.

The portrayal of William, a former drug addict who dropped his newborn baby off on the doorstep of a fire station, gives humanity to a person our society would often shun.

We don’t give many drug addicts a second chance. Someone who gives up a baby can’t be trusted.

An elderly person in the final stages of cancer is typically hidden away in a nursing home so we can avoid the discomfort of watching them die.

I couldn’t help but learn a few lessons from his story, and the insights he provided into the process of dying.

Small Kindnesses Have Large Impacts

After William’s death, Randall is struck by the emotional reaction from people he’s known for years, but barely knew. The mailman dropped off a package and inquired about William, and Randall shared the news of William’s recent passing.

Randall appears dumbfounded when the mail carrier broke into tears and told of William’s kindness in chatting with him each morning. How in those short times together, they struck up a friendship.

It was clear how much he appreciated that William treated him as a human being, and was willing to spend time to learn about his family, while most people just view their mail carrier as the person who drops off the bills or latest Amazon order.

It is truly amazing the impact we can have just by showing kindness to another human beings A smile, “hello,” or “how are you doing,” to a complete stranger can change the course of their day if they’ve been in a bad mood. Although I tend to be pretty shy, I try to use this example and be conscious of showing kindness to others when I’m out and about.

And the cherry on top is that altruism has even been shown to improve your own mood as well. Help others to help yourself!

Appreciate The Little Things

My favorite scene in the series is in the Pilgrim Rick episode, when William was speaking with Olivia Maine on the front porch, and she asks, “how does it feel to be dying?” William replies,

“It feels… like all these beautiful pieces of life are flying around me and I’m trying to catch them. When my granddaughter falls asleep in my lap I try to catch the feeling of her breathing against me. When I make my son laugh I try to catch the sound of him laughing-how it rolls up from his chest… but the pieces are moving faster now and I can’t catch them all. I can feel them slipping through my fingertips. And soon where there used to be my granddaughter breathing and my son laughing, there will be nothing. I know it feels like you have all the time in the world, but you don’t, so stop playing it so cool. Catch the moments of your life, catch them while you’re young and quick, because sooner than you know it, you’ll be old and slow… and there’ll be no more of them to catch.”

I mean, how beautiful is that?

I’ve found that as we age, life tends to sweep us into the moving river of paying bills, keeping the yard tidy, doing chores, working, trying to keep the little ones happy etc., and we can forget to pay attention to where we are or what we’re doing.

We’re so busy with the day-to-day minutia, we even stop contemplating the meaning of life or envisioning how to live out our dreams. I know my 17-year-old self wishes I had more time to plan adventures and check items off the bucket list these days.

So often we’re ruminating on things that happened to us or worrying about what’s coming next that we are never living in the present.

We don’t even recognize that there are beautiful pieces flying around us every day, let alone contemplating how to catch them.

Learning how to be mindful during the most mundane tasks can open our awareness to the beauty of life. Mindfulness helps us to stop living in the past or future and begin to spend time in the present moment.

So slow things down today and try to notice one or two of the beautiful pieces in your life. You’d be surprised by how far gratitude can take you.

Relationships Are More Important Than Things

The final lesson from William is that you can live a fulfilling life without keeping up with the Joneses. William was blessed with the ability and the desire to form deep relationships with the people in his life.

From the mailman, to the son he only met at the end of his life, to the addict he befriended by pretending to enjoy football, he valued the human connection that arises from intimacy and vulnerability.

William did not shy away from his troubled past.

He shared that information because he understood that those experiences are just part of who he is as a person, and that by opening up about his own failures, others would be more likely to be willing to trust and share their own challenges.

He allowed others the opportunity to be vulnerable without being judged, because he knew from personal experience how that is the key to a life well-lived.

Nobody on their death bed asks to see a picture of their Mercedes or to look over their resume. They ask for the people that mattered to them throughout their life.

They regret not having time for their spouse, kids, or friends.

Take a moment to consider the people you value and how you can show them they matter. Schedule time to deepen those relationships and create lasting memories that will mean so much more to you (and them) than a bigger boat.

If you’ve read this far, I hope you’ve gained a little appreciation for the lessons taught by William Hill. We can all stand to use him as an example of overcoming challenges and finding happiness and peace in the end.

If you’ve struggled to overcome obstacles and would like a little extra help, please reach out for a free consultation. I have a few open slots in my practice and I’d love to discuss how we could work together to help you reach your goals.

Dr. Kevin Hyde

Dr. Kevin Hyde

Dr. Kevin Hyde is a clinical psychologist licensed to practice in the state of Florida. He resides in Pinellas County with his wife and two young daughters. In his spare time, Dr. Hyde enjoys relaxing at the beach with family, watching Nationals baseball, baking bread, and keeping up with current events. He founded Pinellas Anxiety Specialists with the intention of providing high quality anxiety therapy to reduce the stress and anxiety that so many cope with on a daily basis.