"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle." -- Plato
During a public outreach show at a clown ministry conference I performed a torn and restored mismade paper routine that ended with me handing out two slips of paper to audience members. One said, "John 3: 16." The other said, "God Loves You." (The entire effect and routine is described in Creativity for Entertainers Volume Three: Creative Routines.) After my performance, my contact person asked me how I knew about the boy I handed the God Loves You piece of paper. I asked her what she meant. She said, "That boy was beaten by bullies on the bus on the way home. He had just left the emergency room to come here for the show. He was the one person here that needed reassurance that somebody loved him."
I didn't know anything about that boy until she told me. However, I try to treat everyone in my audience as if they need reassurance of love. When I bring an audience member up on stage to assist me, I always try to make them feel special. More than once I have received feedback telling me that the person on stage did need that treatment. I'll share with you one more example.
I was hired to entertain at a birthday party. When I arrived, the obviously stressed mother asked me if I could wait fifteen minutes because they weren't ready. I agreed to the delay because I didn't have anything else scheduled immediately after the party. I had a book in my car so I went outside and read for fifteen minutes. When I returned to the party, there were very few guests. When I called the day before to confirm I would be there, the mother had told me to expect a much larger party. I did my best to entertain them and make sure the guest of honor felt special. I thought he might be disappointed that more people hadn't shown up. I didn't realize what was really happening. When I was packing up to leave, the mother thanked me for my flexibility. She explained that her brother had a heart attack that morning and most of the family members were at the hospital where he was in ICU. She said she was determined that would not ruin her son's birthday so she went on with the party.
Audience members are not the only ones who are fighting their own battles. Often other entertainers fight battles that may be invisible. A woman, who performs as a whiteface clown wearing a frilly dress, told me that as a girl she was always teased about her appearance so she never felt very pretty. Being in character was the one time in her life she felt beautiful so It hurt her deeply when somebody criticized her appearance as a clown.
I know two entertainers who fight ADHD. Another friend is plagued by dyslexia which makes working with written material difficult. I know more than one entertainer with depression which results in their energy being drained by crowds. One of them avoids large crowds by concentrating on strolling entertainment. Another has to find a quiet place to recover after each stage performance. I recently learned that the nephew of one of my clown friends was injured in a fall and is in a coma. In each case I knew them before they revealed their struggles to me. They had reasons I didn't realize for needing some kindness. Often they confided in me to express their appreciation for a small act of kindness that I had shown them.
There have been times in my own life and career when I have struggled with my own battles while performing. At those times I have greatly appreciated the kindness other people showed towards me. Usually they did not realize what was happening for me or how much they helped me. I wish I could find some of them now and let them know my gratitude.
How would assuming everyone is fighting their own battles change your actions? How can you show kindness to members of your audience? How can you show kindness to other entertainers? How can you show kindness to those in your private life?