Dear Friends of Gesundheit, I am sorry it has been so long since I have written. There is so much to do and so little time to do it all in—I want to sing sweet gratitude for my life, for friends, for the joy of nature and the arts, and the radiant privilege of working every day for peace and justice for all people.
Just look at the last six weeks: November began with lectures and performances in Mexico, Tennessee, and Nebraska. Then I went on my 25th annual Russian Clown Tour with 36 clowns from 10 countries, ages 16-86. Morrighan Clinco organized the trip with us. We’ve known Morrighan a long time; she first went on the Russia trip thirteen years ago. She was 12 years old. The biggest test for me on the trip was that my 22 year old son, Lars, was my roommate. We were inseparable and seriously into bad behavior. A couple of the highlights: Rosy, from Switzerland, who is in her 70s and on her seventh trip danced a wonderfully hilarious erotic dance using a small Swiss horn at the talent night. 86 year old Freck, from Holland, showed it’s never too late to try something new by doing his first mooning in the annual group mooning shot. Swine flu closed many institutions to us in both cities but opened up some new exciting ones. One of the many delights was in St. Petersburg—the music group CKY was staying at our hotel and late one night I got to play air guitar with their lead singer.
From Russia I went to Poland for four nights in three cities hosted by Alexandra, who was the first Little Person I’ve had the privilege to meet and befriend. It felt like we’d known each other for years. She, at 3 feet, was my translator and we were a pair, engaged 12-16 hours each day. Medical and other students clowned each day with us, enjoying the message of loving, fun care. The friends I made there make me want to return soon.
I then flew to Milan, Italy for two packed days with Cristina, Ginevra and Susan, as well as the School for Designing a Society: Mark, Rob, Danielle, and Bob. For three years, the SDAS has led a week-long activism intensive in Italy. I joined them after Cristina and I did fundraisers at a Homeopathic Factory and a Rotary dinner. Susan and I had created a new four hour workshop “The Emperor’s New Clothes” exploring issues of being silent and speaking up. Particularly in Italy, participants seemed excited to explore these issues.
After Italy, I came home for a few days to catch up on mail, phone, and faxes. And then I was off again for a glorious week of fundraising in Concord, Massachusetts orchestrated by Stuart Weeks, a true transcendentalist. Rarely in our 39 years has someone gone to such an effort to help us. The first day, he drove me to Beacon, New York to spend a long afternoon with Pete Seeger and his wife Toshi in his lovely home on the Hudson. I heard Pete sing in Washington DC in 1963 at Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and have held him in my activist’s heart ever since. I watched Pete, who is 90, running through his house and preparing a salad for a potluck activist’s meeting that night. A truly persistent sandwich. I was thrilled to give Toshi a massage and hear her story. Over the next six days I had forty encounters due to Stuart’s meticulous effort to expose our work in hopeful environments. It began early the first morning at Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grave with Stuart reading his wisdom. From there to Orchard house, the home of Louisa May Alcott, where activism flourished for civil and women’s rights. We met out back with a current version of the School of Philosophy. The week ended on the way to the airport when I met with Ryan, now in Harvard Law School, who was assistant to Bill Gates Sr. I have to thank my hostess Mary Jane who let me stay in her home. AT 75, she still teaches school and is a shining example of why I say the school teacher is the most important member of human culture. And another bow to Mildred, 89, who we visited in her beautiful library (she has more George Gissing novels than anyone I’ve ever met). Her smile gave me life. I came home thinking we can build.
As a dessert this last weekend, one of our youth clowns, Lily Huggins, threw a fundraiser for us at the Boyd Theater in Richmond where Lydia and I had our first date in 1971. Levi was there selling the Gesundheit t-shirts and scrubs he and his father, David, have created for us as a fundraising effort. When enough friends help as these dear souls have, we will get built.
And to finish these six weeks off—my beloved Susan came yesterday for our annual 10 weeks together over the winter. Yum.
Dear friends … help me. As we enter our 40th year let’s get ready to build this coming summer. This puny, embarrassing, meaningless media around health care reform would never have happened had our model been up and showing a hospital operating at 10% of the cost where staff and patients are blessed and having fun. Until we show them an alternative, the insurance and pharmaceutical companies can buy our inability to care for our people. Feel the thrill of persistence. Taste it on your tongue.
Please help us.
Dr Patch Adams, 23Dec2009