May 18, 2015


Beach Lane Books
In a prior post about unlikely friendships I wrote about author/illustrator Marla Frazee's 2014 picture book, THE FARMER AND THE CLOWN. This wordless wonder earned my praise and the accolades of many, including being named an ALA Notable Book. 

I felt compelled to return to it in this post as RED NOSE DAY approaches. This event/concept/cause originated in England with a goal of lifting children from poverty. It combined smile-inducing red-noses with a sincere fund-raising effort to fight hunger, homelessness, and other needs in the very young.

A couple of years ago the project crossed the Atlantic and took root in the USA. It's become a composite of commercial, entertainment, and individual efforts to support kids in need with the immediacy of smile-inducing red noses while making substantial contributions to established organizations with kids at their centers. In 2015 our official RED NOSE DAY is May 21.

Dad, as Raggedy Andy
The cause seems worthy enough, and I have my own red nose at the ready. But that date reminded me of something important about red noses, clowns, and good intentions.
May 21 happens to be my dad's birthday, and he just happened to be a clown. He volunteered for many years with a professionally trained clown unit dedicated to serving those in need. They visited adults and senior centers, but their most dedicated efforts were aimed at children, particularly in hospitals. 
When Dad was accepted in the unit he intentionally chose Raggedy Andy as his character, knowing that some kids (and adults) are actually afraid of clowns. His red nose was painted on and he carried a Raggedy Andy doll with him so that his face would be a familiar, friendly one. 
Frazee's story makes it heartbreakingly clear that painted faces and red noses can mask genuine emotions. At the risk of taking a worthy cause down a somber lane, let's not mask the truth that a red nose or a one day event will never be enough to do the heavy lifting needed to ensure that every child in this country has food security, a safe and loving home, and community stability. 

It takes consistent and repeated effort, return trips, and putting ourselves in the place of those in need to find smiles beneath the paint and red noses. The Farmer stretched himself far beyond his routines to lift the child from his sadness and in doing so raised his own spirits. Dad did the same, month after month, year after year. 
Let's resolve to make the effort, on this occasion and repeatedly, to bring smiles and support into the lives of those who are least able to help themselves.

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