Friday, March 6, 2015

Patch Adams: not the movie

I had the great pleasure of hearing and seeing Patch Adams for the first time, on February 20 at the Ontario Psychological Association Annual Conference where he was a keynote speaker.(Remember the movie? Here's a correction for you: the person who was murdered was not a girl, but a buddy of his. "Hollywood took some liberties.") He talked for an hour and a half with no notes. Partly because he has talked to groups all over the world, and knows his message very well. He dressed in clown get-up, and he showed two short clips of his work. One was a breathtaking scene in Peru in which he got down to face level with a young girl with cerebral palsy and whose head was in her hands on her wheelchair. He literally brought her to life.

He is funny, but he is very serious. He says he has been at this since he was a medical school renegade in the mid-60's. He will never burn out because it is not possible when you love people so much and have such great joy being with them. Hospitals are not happy places, he says, because they do not teach medical students compassion, and those students land in the treatment world full of themselves (he used harsher language than that). Well, make of that what you will, he is the embodiment of something different, that is for sure. 

A few quotes:

"Care is the verbing of love."

 "There is no treatment prescription in the Diagnostic Manual that says, "Could use more love."  

"Caring is the chance to be enthusiastic."

"Caring is good for you. There are no papers in science showing the value of being serious. Or nasty, rude, or apathetic."

The whole thing is interesting not the least because he made it clear "I do not believe in any God." But then he used examples of Mother Teresa and Jesus. He asked the audience to put up their hands if they have done anything recently that was life-giving for another person. Lot of hands went up. He said, you are heroes. Then he said, when I count three, shout out "I am a hero." He mocked the effort and had us do it again. Much better. Then he said, how could you ever burn out if you are a hero and if you are Jesus? That's what Jesus wanted, isn't it? To be him to the people you meet?"

"Can you imagine going down the street saying I am a hero!"? Can you imagine going down the street and saying I am Jesus? Don't say that one near a psychiatrist!"

I was amazed. And everybody was quite moved. He talks with tremendous confidence, and he says "I cause havoc in an elevator!" But "When we go to a hospital or a home, I always look for the kid in the corner. That's the one who will be missed."

I am thinking to myself, we need this guy to fire up our evangelizing efforts. "Be Jesus to other people"? When you sign on to spend time with Patch Adams ("We have people from 3 to 88 coming to the clowning schools")  you dress in clown and you go to where people need to be cared for. He was going to be doing a visit to Sick Kids, and so the President-elect of OPA was in clown get-up to accompany him.

When we sign on to be with Jesus, to follow Jesus, do we make that kind of commitment? Most of us do not, sadly. We let other people put on the Jesus garment. We are not able to do that. We are not worthy of doing it. We make our commitment by praying. By trying to be a good person.

But BE Jesus to other people? That is ministry, that is discipleship.

There is going to be a workshop in Kingston on November 28, and it will be about intentional discipleship, the very thing Patch Adams is about, in a slightly different context. Someone I was talking to the other day lamented that it might be just another workshop with some good ideas that we go home and forget about.

We will forget about them only because we are not really taken with Jesus yet!

You can't hang around Patch Adams and not be taken with him.

BE Jesus to other people?

Oh my goodness, he's got me thinking, wheels turning. More than anything, heart turning - to Jesus. Nothing but nothing will happen if we merely like the idea of Jesus. It happens when we are engaged with, in love with, embraced by, the person of Jesus.

Thanks, Patch. Whoda ever thought?