My New Friend Patch Adams

Creswell, Oregon, USA — July 8, 2016

This fellow I had just met and only briefly chatted with, gave me a hug for a goodbye and then surprised me with a kiss on the cheek. I shouldn’t have been surprised. This was Patch Adams.

Patch Adams
Patch Adams at the 2016 Oregon Country Fair.

At the Country Fair

Lori and I were back in Oregon for vacation. Our daughter, Natalie, asked if we could watch their place while she and friend Austin worked at the Oregon Country Fair.

The Country Fair? We hadn’t been to the Fair for something like 25 years. Sure, we’ll water your garden, and feed and water your chickens, rabbits, and cats in the morning and evening. But we’re also going to go to the Fair during the day.

In between listening to live music, perusing the hand-made crafts, and eating way too much of the delectable fair food, I went to a talk by Patch Adams.

Patch Adams

Like many, what I knew of Patch Adams was from the 1998 Robin Williams movie Patch Adams. The semi-biographical film relates Patch’s experience in medical school and his novel approach to healing using humor, love, and personal connection.

I learned a little more about Patch from Natalie and Austin when they visited us in Madagascar. They not only flew to Madagascar as Patch inspired clowns, but also spread a little happiness clowning at schools, churches, orphanages, and hospitals while there.

Country Fair Clowns
Natalie and Austin, a couple clowns at the Oregon Country Fair.

At the Fair, Patch talked about the healing power of love. Mushy, soppy, sappy love. Patch showed what he meant as one audience member sat on Patch’s lap while recounting his ordeal with modern health care, which they derided as the “sick care” industry. Patch talked about the Gesundheit! Institute and making a reality of his vision to reclaim and reframe the concept of a hospital with one of holistic medical care where healing is a loving human interchange and not a business transaction.

Patch is a healer. He’s an activist for “peace, justice, and care for all.” And, he’s a traveler. However, he travels as a clown.

Nowadays, Patch travels with other clowns to all corners of the world including war zones, refugee camps, and natural disaster sites. They combine health care with clowning, collaborative play, music, and art. They build clinics, provide humanitarian and medical care, and engage communities in collaborative community development projects.

Patch Recites A Poem

Patch ended his talk by reciting a poem. The opening line caught my attention. “You start dying slowly if you do not travel.”

Later I looked up the poem on the internet. Patch attributed the poem to Pablo Neruda. This seems to be a pervasive but incorrect on the internet. The actual author is Marth Medeiros, a Brazilian writer and journalist. I came across many English translation versions of the poem. Below is the version Patch recited.

You Start Dying Slowly

by Martha Medeiros

Published in Zero Hora in Porto Alegre, November 2000

You start dying slowly
if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.
You start dying slowly
When you kill your self-esteem;
When you do not let others help you.
You start dying slowly
If you become a slave of your habits,
Walking everyday on the same paths…
If you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colors
Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.
You start dying slowly
If you avoid to feel passion
And their turbulent emotions;
Those which make your eyes glisten
And your heart beat fast.
You start dying slowly
If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself,
At least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice…

A Hug and a Kiss

Click here to buy House Calls by Patch Adams at Amazon.com!

Click here to buy Gesundheit! by Patch Adams at Amazon.com!

After the talk, I bought a copy of Patch’s book, Gesundheit!: Bringing Good Health to You, the Medical System, and Society through Physician Service, Complementary Therapies, Humor, and Joy to help support his cause. As he autographed my copy, Patch told he was making a revolution of love.

We chatted for a brief but long enough moment to make a new friend. Then came the hug and the kiss.

What do you think of Patch's revolution of love? Have you ever traveled as a clown? Let us know about this or any other thoughts on this post in the comments section below. If you want to learn more about Patch Adam's work, you can click on the book cover images above to buy his books. Thanks much if you do. Happy wanderings!

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