This weekend we lost a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. George Michael was a man of talent, integrity, kindness, love and friendship. He did things for others and was charitable without needing to be recognized for his good deeds. I have always believed that the best definition of integrity is doing the right thing, particularly when no one is looking. That is what George Michael did through many, many anonymous gifts that are only now coming to light. He used his own financial success to assist others in need. Examples of his generosity abound. There was the time he anonymously called in and gave a donation to a woman who appeared on "Deal or No Deal" and revealed that she was in need of IVF treatment she could not afford. There was the time he overheard a stranger crying about her substantial debt in a cafe and left a check for her behind as he walked out. He secretly donated millions to charities for neglected and needy children. He gave to charities for those with cancer and HIV, oftentimes going to great lengths to keep his donations secret. So many of his good works are now being revealed after his passing by those he helped.
He was a great guy. One we could all wish to emulate. He stood up for homosexuals and worked to fight discrimination against gays. In the face of hateful critics, he came out to the world and stood proud of being a man who loves other men. He was clearly a man of character who realized that for a man with his celebrity status to come out would offer strength to others.
George Michael also struggled with addiction. This was not a character or moral flaw, but rather an affliction that the U.S. Government, the American Medical Association, The American Psychiatric Association, and numerous doctors and scientists have for years clearly stated is a disease. Addiction is a disease that, like other physical maladies, can be identified in scans of the body and brain. And George Michael struggled. Silently. Scared just like the rest of us who are members of the roughly 10% of the population who get addicted and fight the biology of our mind, trying to overcome the terrible fact that our genes have destined us to battle a life threatening mental illness. 90% of people who try drugs or alcohol will never struggle with addiction, but 10% of the population (of which I am a member) will never be able to live without it. Our minds are forever afflicted with the struggle. Perhaps people beyond the scientist and the doctor will come to love and respect us. Maybe even try to help, rather than judge. And see us the same way they see cancer patients, or patients with bi-polar and schizophrenia. And hopefully they will realize that we are not morally flawed. Perhaps they will be able to recognize that those still struggling with active addiction addiction are not bad people, but sick people in need of help. George Michael was clearly a good man who, despite his own struggles, worked to use his resources and talent to help others in need. Sadly, he has lost his battle with addiction. His goodness, however, will live on through those he helped.
Hopefully, we can honor George Michael by turning our attention to helping the millions of others who are good people fighting the genetic brain disease that we inherited.