When the community asked me to be a clown at one of our gatherings, I was ambivalent. Sure, I had proven to myself that I was a good clown. But this was Sojourners Community, which, for all its attributes, had always taken itself and life in general far too seriously.
Besides, these people knew me. They knew that I took life far too seriously, also. They knew the introverted Dan who was reluctant to express himself in groups of more than two. They didn't know my clown character, "Jacopo," the extroverted goofball who loved kids and was always ready to be the butt of a joke—or so I thought.
One factor would redeem the night, I figured. Surely the community children would help create a good atmosphere. They knew Jacopo and had really liked him in the past. I knew I could count on them as my ace in the hole.
Then even that hope was yanked out from under me. I was bringing home with me one of my props, a dog leash that looked as though I were walking an invisible dog. In front of one of our community houses, Peter Sabath and Micah Sparacio, both 5-year-olds, saw me. Peter's father, Bob, who was with them, smiled. "Hey, Peter and Micah, look at the dog," he said.
"There's no dog there," said Micah.
"Sure there is," said Bob. "Watch out or it'll bite you!" The "dog" started lunging at the three of them.
"There's no dog there!" insisted Micah, who proceeded to stick his hand through the empty muzzle on the end of the leash. Defiantly and victoriously, he marched into the house.