“I see you.” These are three simple words that can have a profound meaning. It’s a rare person that can’t say they’ve been through some tough times. The worst times are those that cause our children pain. I remember a doctor once telling me that they needed to take my daughter to the emergency room when she was a baby. I called my mother to let her know what was going on and broke down. I could barely get the words, “something’s wrong” out of my mouth. I was lucky. She was okay. Some people don’t have the luxury of their child being okay when they go to the hospital. Some children spend days, weeks, or months in the hospital dealing with some of the most terrible illnesses imaginable. There are few moments of happiness in the lives of these young souls. We met a man who makes it his mission to bring some of that joy to sick children. Danomino is a caring clown that visits children in hospitals and orphanages around the world. He has fun with the kids and their families; however, unlike a circus clown, Danomino doesn’t go in do a performance that says, “Here I am! Look at me!” He goes in and makes sure that his message is, “Hi. There YOU are. I see you!”
Danomino, whose real name is Dan, told me that it’s hard to describe what he does because each moment and each connection is different. He listens to the children’s stories and does what he can do to let them know that they have been heard and that they are not alone. If he can bring a smile or a little bit of joy to their day, or to the day of the parents and loved ones who are suffering at their bedside so that they can make it through a few more days, then he has accomplished his mission.
Dan doesn’t do this for money. He uses donations and his own money to go abroad and visit these children. He doesn’t consider see it as a sacrifice, but as something he actually gains in the experience. Even more difficult than raising the money is dealing with the emotional stress. He visits children who have had a rough start to their lives. Some have terminal illnesses and will never leave the hospital. He has to look into the eyes of the parents who are watching their children die. He spoke about playing a game of chess with a teen boy in a burn unit who told him about his own father pouring vodka on him and setting him on fire. I asked him how he handles these devastating emotions. He said that it can take a couple of weeks to dissolve the emotions after a trip. He said it is also important to talk about the feelings. He tries to never clown alone. He brings another clown with him on visits and they speak about their interactions at the end of the day. As he said, “we need to share our experiences with someone.”
It takes a very special kind of person to be a caring clown. However, anyone can give others the same message: “I see you.” Maybe you can volunteer at a hospital. Maybe it’s working with the homeless. I could be with children or the elderly. Maybe it’s a hot cup of coffee when it’s cold outside. There are so many people out there who can make it just a few more days if you reach out and let them know that they are not alone. That you see them. You never know what those extra few days and that little bit of joy and hope will bring.