I went to high school with that clown!
I've been working as a clown with Liquid Sky at Braves games this year. A few days ago, I was clowning outside the stadium. We have designated areas where we are scheduled to perform. I went to my area carrying my props, juggling balls, baseball bats, and my juggling hat. As I was getting ready to perform, I heard a voice. It said, "I went to high school with you." I assumed this comment was for someone else. I prepared to start my performance again. The voice persisted, this time a little louder, "Hey, I went to high school with you!” This person WAS talking to me. I stopped what I was doing and looked around. A woman was standing in front of me. I said, "Yes, you did go to high school with me." It was Karen Fowler. Then she pointed to her friend standing next to her, Nancy Dowling another classmate. I've haven't seen them in person since the '80s. They came to a baseball game and ran into a clown.
We said hello to each other and exchanged a few pleasantries. While we were talking, Karen mentioned a post she saw on Facebook. One of our classmates, Neal Howard, has a child. Our clown team has seen him in the hospital. A few of these visits were years ago with Big Apple Circus Clown Care, and other visits were recent after we started Humorology Atlanta. Karen told me that she liked seeing the posts about our clown work with children. She said that she liked that the posts were motivational and positive.
"Motivational," I found this to be interesting. That's not my focus when I'm in the hospital. My focus in the hospital has been on other things. I focus on what makes a good routine, playing the right song on the ukulele, being a good partner with my team mate, checking in with the patient, giving our routine a comedic/clown structure, working with the medical staff, bringing new skills to the work, having strong endings to our routines, knowing when to invite the patient to play and when not to, being aware of hygiene issues in the room,…. the list goes on. I rarely if ever think about being… "motivational."
I've been doing this work for 19 years. One of my earliest memories was on September 11, 2001. We had been working at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta for about 12 months at that point. I remember clowning at Egleston that morning. We were clowning while we heard the news about the attacks. What struck me that day was the parents of these children. The world seemed to be in a panic, yet there were still patients, children who needed attention, love, and care. I found that to be motivational.
When I saw my high school classmates, Karen and Nancy at the Braves game, my impulse was to talk about high school or baseball, after all, we were at a baseball game, not about my work in the hospital. I tried to change the subject. However, she persisted. She wanted to make her point. She told me how uplifting it was to see the clown work we do in the hospital. Why was I trying to interrupt her?
I thought about a saying I heard. "When someone is saying nice things about you, don't interrupt them."
I'm glad she persisted.