It’s been a long while since I have been moved by a television series as much as I have been with NBC’s “This Is Us.” It’s the story of a family — which is everyone’s story. I’ve been waiting for a few weeks now to see what will become of William, Randall’s biological father, who has terminal cancer. Randall (Sterling K. Brown) tracked William (Ron Cephas Jones) down and brought him into his own home after being abandoned by William as an infant. Of course, if Randall hadn’t been left at the hospital, he wouldn’t have been adopted by his parents (Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore) and become one of the “big three,” along with his sister Kate and brother Kevin, played wonderfully by Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley, respectively.
Each week, this show has presented a glimpse into this beloved, imperfect, yet perfect family. The love they have for each other is real and uniquely, almost palpable. For instance, it shows Kevin, the actor about to take the stage at his new play, running off at the last minute to do what his dad would do, knowing that his brother Randall was having a breakdown.
And we see William utter his dying words to his long-lost son:
“You deserve everything, Randall. My beautiful boy. My son. I haven’t had a happy life. I had breaks. I had choices. A life of almosts and could-haves. Some would call it sad, but I don’t. ’Cause the two best things in my life were the person in the very beginning, and the person at the very end.”
Or the scenes of baby William dancing with his mother intermingled with scenes of him as an old man meeting his mom in heaven — I don’t know what impacted me more. Watching William take his last breath just about broke me.
This isn’t only writing at its best (and big huge kudos to these amazing writers, in particular creator and writer Dan Fogelman), it is humanity at its best. It is one of the very few displays of media that choose to show humans being kind and good rather than terrible, simply for ratings. I wonder if we were as deluged with simple acts of human kindness day in and day out, the same way we are inundated with horrific images, lies, corruption, and plain wickedness, would we be a different society?
With the current world, we may feel helpless and wonder what we can do to preserve the goodness that was innately born in our children. While we may feel like giving up some days, we have to keep trying. One thing we can do is be the good we want to see, be the change that needs to occur, be the kindness we want to foster, as Gandhi said so many years ago.
I commend the writers, producers, and actors of “This Is Us” for taking the lead in a sea of sharks, and taking a chance that good would outweigh evil. (I often imagine some of our so-called leaders being forced to watch this series, “A Clockwork Orange”-style, and see if any sense of humanity might well up in them after a while.) Many viewers have commented that each week, after watching, they try to be a better person and do better in their individual life. One viewer tweeted that after every episode, they want to hug everyone they see, because they have more of an open heart to a person’s struggles. And each of us has our own.
A teacher once asked my high school class if we thought that people were inherently evil with a propensity to do good or if people were fundamentally good with a tendency to do evil. As an optimistic teen, I told him, I thought people were inherently good, and I still do, despite what we see over and over again on TV.
Maybe if we saw more goodness on the screen, just maybe, we just might see more goodness in our real lives.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babbl
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