I’ve been researching a new writing project, and I came across something called ‘The Clown’s Prayer’. I’ve been unable to find any information about its history—not even when it was written. However, it attracted me because of its timely sentiment:
As I stumble through this life, help me to create more laughter than tears, dispense more happiness than gloom, spread more cheer than despair. Never let me become so indifferent, that I will fail to see the wonders in the eyes of a child, or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged. Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people, make them happy, and forget momentarily, all the unpleasantness in their lives. And in my final moment, may I hear You whisper: ‘When you made My people smile, you made Me smile.’
I felt moved to do some research on clowns in general. Apparently, the appreciation of those who give laughter has been twisted. Instead of jolly jest-makers, Killer Clowns, Creepy Clowns, the fear of clowns (coulrophobia) were the focus of many of the articles I found. There was not much about the clowns that give you joy and laughter, or sit and cry with you when you’re sad.
Not everyone has the gift of giving laughter, but we all have the gift of showing kindness. I count it an excellent day when I have said or done something that has made another person laugh or at least smile—something without harm, ridicule, or exploitation. It is increasingly difficult to find people who will receive kindness, simply because we’ve grown distrustful and suspicious of it.
I think we’re afraid of it. Perhaps that’s why the withering stories?
The spirit of the Clown’s Prayer is differently expressed in a prayer by the 8th century Buddhist monk and scholar Shantideva:
May I be a guard for those who need protection; A guide for those on the path; A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the water. May I be a lamp in the darkness; A resting place for the weary, A healing medicine for all who are sick. For as long as the earth and sky endure, May I assist until all living beings are awakened.
Whether we choose to be a bringer of smiles and laughter, or a guard, guide, or physician, we have it in us to confound the legacy of selfishness and exploitation that is so prevalent in the 21st century. It is a beautiful opportunity to create! It costs nothing, and gives much. In the famous speech from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (‘The quality of mercy is not strained….’), Portia says of mercy, ‘It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.’
So it is with kindness and laughter. Kindness and laughter make a better world. Some have given their lives for kindness and laughter—to give it, and to protect it.
A few days before his death, the English actor Paul Eddington said in an interview:
A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be ‘He did very little harm’. And that’s not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me.
As in all things, we have a choice. Rage and harm, or kindness and laughter. I hope I will always choose kindness and laughter.
This is something we all can do.
Paul TN Chapman
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