When my phone rang in the middle of a clothing store yesterday afternoon, I didn’t think much of it.
Then, I answered and Mindy informed me Michael Jackson was dead. My exclamation kind of drew attention to me.
Let’s just say this: I’m probably not your biggest MJ fan. I appreciate him as an innovator and entertainer, someone who definitely changed the face of pop music as we know it. I really don’t know where I was when Michael was big, because I really don’t remember listening to a lot of his music growing up. Yet we must have, because I know so much of it. I remember the first time I saw the video for “Thriller.” And I still like to claim that “I’m bad.”
But my overwhelming feeling about MJ in these last few years or so has been one of overwhelming sadness. I was listening to some discussion of his death on CNN yesterday afternoon/evening, and some woman (I can’t remember who or what expert she was supposed to be) started talking about how wildly successful Michael was professionally and how sad and tormented he was personally. His manager quoted him as once on a trip through Indiana as saying, “You know, I was born here, but I never had a childhood.” One writer posited that MJ’s obsession with plastic surgery was because he wanted to erase the characteristics of his dad that he saw emerging.
Whatever the world remembers about MJ—the music, the accusations, the weirdness—he was a very talented man. And a very troubled one. And as I watched Jermaine Jackson at a press conference yesterday, I just felt sad. Sad at the loss of a musical legend. Sad at the way our lives can get so messed up. Sad for the distraut MJ fans whose response actually scared me a little. Sad for the Jackson family. Sad for all the families who lost their loved ones yesterday.
And in the middle of it, I was struck by the fact that all over this planet there are people dealing with their own very painful tragedies. Deaths, divorces, hurts, fears. Some very private; others very public. I knew as I watched the media coverage that we all hurt; that we’re all messed up; and that even fame and fortune leave us lost and wanting more, and often desert us altogether.
So today, instead of worrying always, only about myself and my needs, I’m going to attempt to be more compassionate and caring toward those around me. This life hurts and there are a lot of hurting people out there. And if I can show compassion to just one of them, I’m counting it as a good day.