I’m in Peru with 100 clowns at the annual Belen Festival; a community health project now in its ninth year. We clown in the streets, hospitals, a prison, shelters, old-age homes and orphanages, and we offer children’s workshops (puppetry, percussion, theater, circus arts, gymnastics, dance), perform health promotion skits, paint murals, and support local service agencies.

We also conducted mental-health clinics in the streets with clown/health professionals, where we talk to people in school yards, loading docks, shelters, and marketplaces… listening  to  anybody who wants to talk.  I’ve described these street clinics in detail ( http://www.clinicalpsychiatrynews.com/index.php?id=2407&cHash=071010&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=138185 ), and this year we added a new dimension.

My friend Dario is not a health professional; he is an extraordinary, openhearted Gesundheit! Clown who spreads his loving energy to  people all over the world.  Dario asked me what I thought about him coming along to the clinics to do his healing work. He wanted to sit face to face with people looking them in the eye and opening his heart to them in complete silence.

My initial response was one of uncertainty;  I knew Dario’s power to connect with people at a soul level, but I also thought maybe it was a little to woo-woo and might scare people away. However, we are all clowns, and it is our function to stretch limits, provide new ways of seeing, lift the mood, share a unique perspective, tell stories, offer wisdom and humor, so we tried it out. Dario put up a sign on the back of the chair that read

Prueba una
Toma asiento, por favor
Try a
Please have a seat

While the patients were signing in, I thought I’d share the experience and sat looking into Dario’s eyes. It didn’t take a minute before I started talking. This is what I do, I am a storyteller, words are my medium of expression, but Dario remained silent.

While I’m talking I saw his eyes water, and told him that seeing his tears reminded me how difficult it was for me to cry publicly. I told him a Native American wisdom story that if someone cried in front of you, it was customary to say thank you, because they were speaking the truth from their heart, and doing it for all of us who have trouble doing it for ourselves. While I’m flapping, I feel my tears and that’s when I finally stopped talking. We looked each other in the eye in silence for a long time, and his loving heart opened mine.

Dario saw adults and kids at every clinic, and many were as touched as I was.