I recieved a phone call awhile back to entertain at a birthday party for a 5-year-old boy. The woman on the other end of the line was very nice, and we were close to a verbal commitment when she said, ” I feel awkward saying this, but I think you should know–and it’s O.K. if you don’t want to do this–but my little boy is blind.”
He had been sightless since birth. She thought a clown would make the party special for her son and all the other children who were going to be there.
A female clown friend of mine was curious about how I was going to do this, so she tagged along. At the house, we found a typical party scene — adults, kids, hot dogs and hamburgers. We asked for the birthday boy by name and found him alone on the swing set. When he heard we were there, he bailed and ran toward us.
His mother made the introductions. He yelled, “I want to see!” We let him “Braille” us from head to toe. The differences were profound. ME: Tiny little hat, a jacket big enough to hide a kangaroo, and enormous high-top, wing-tipped clown shoes. HER: Ponytails, frilly dress, ruffled apron and enormous Mary Janes. It flipped the birthday boy right out.
I winced every time I said, “Take a look at this!” or ” My hair is red, my jacket is yellow.” The makeup hid my mortified blushes.
I let the birthday boy use my battery powered pump to inflate some of the balloons I had brought to twist into animal shapes for the kids. Since he couldn’t see, he couldn’t tell when the balloons were full and BANG! They burst. It sounded like firecrackers. BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG! All of us were laughing so hard we were crying.
Which leads me to the educational part of this story.
The Mom was very happy that I treated her son like any other kid. The boy had fun being part of the show. The guests who didn’t quite know how to interact with the boy grew much more comfortable. I was invited back for more birthdays, where the guest of honor happily played my cymbals, wore my coat, blew up more balloons (BANG BANG BANG) and laughed, laughed, laughed!
Though my vision is good, that blind boy taught me to see beyond what we call handicaps to the person within.