I saw the film “Patch Adams” in 1998.
The film is about a quirky and unconventional doctor, Dr. Hunter “Patch Adams” who wrote the book “Gesundheit:Health is a Laughing Matter” and opened a teaching center and clinic, The Gesundheit Institute in West Virginia.
Prior to seeing the film, I had gone for an interview to volunteer working with children who had cancer in a huge and powerful hospital in New York City.
The first interview with the head of volunteers, I realized that I knew from a spiritual community that we both belonged to. Knowing that, I was much more relaxed in the interview and he went over all of the duties expected of me and told me that I would have to go into their training program. They ended up giving me a rundown and then told me to come back in two weeks and I would be infiltrated into their volunteer program.
In the past I had always prided myself in having a wonderful heart connection with children of all ages—and I still do to this day. Robin Williams portraying “Patch Adams” in the film showed me this.
I was so touched by Patch’s unorthodox ways working with children who were seriously ill, getting them excited and showing them the gift of life, love and laughter. Who better to play that role than Robin Williams, a most unorthodox and delightful genius of a man with a great big heart.
It showed one scene in the film when Patch comes into the children’s ward and all of the children were just lying in bed, just looking into space, either attached to some sort of drip or sleeping. Patch/Robin walks into their room dressed as a clown, with a great big red nose, and he starts joking with the children and
the next thing you know the entire ward is filled with laughter and excitement!
Two weeks later I went back to the head of volunteer’s office at this huge cancer hospital in New York and waited for him to see me. He came out of his office and escorted me in, told me to “have a seat.”
Then he looked at me and said: “Sherri, you are not the right type to be with the children. You will scare them with your big energy and I feel you should volunteer in another part of the hospital.”
And I believed him! I left his office feeling like I was a piece of sh*t! I was thinking “he’s right. I have this big energy and I of course would scare the children.” I had no faith in myself whatsoever!
I was so sad.
A few years later the film “Patch Adams” came out with Robin Williams and I went to see it and I was amazed. While viewing the film I witnessed so much heart, so much love, so much aliveness, and the children were getting healed, maybe not to a point where the cancer disappeared…but Patch was making them happy and making them laugh.
I connected with him because I realized that I too could make people/children laugh, make them happy, be totally outrageous, and the children always loved it!
I remember going to a town pool I lived near in New Jersey wearing all different colors of polish or my nails and toenails and the kids went nuts when they saw me. Nuts in a good way. They just loved looking at my toes and nails on my hands!
I walked out of that film a whole different person.
I realized that I had been given a gift. And that the head of volunteers was speaking on behalf of the children when we said I would intimidate them—well, he was probably talking about himself!
Who else could have played that role but Robin Williams. Both Robin and Patch Adams have taught me to have faith in who I am and that the making people laugh is a gift.
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Editor: Renée Picard