My friend Hiccups the Clown (who prefers that I not publish his real name) is one of the most selfless and giving people I’ve ever met. He works tirelessly to help others, like no one else I know. I have many, many great people in my life who are compassionate and caring, but Hiccups is one who continuously takes action to provide others with the things they need, when they need them. (And the fact that he doesn’t want me to disclose his name should serve as an indication of his desire to serve and give with humility.)
He’s become well known among Dodgers fans. Appearing at games in full make-up, he’s a crowd favorite. People love to have their picture taken with him, and he’s even shown up in one of the team’s season-opening commercials. An unofficial mascot, I suppose.
But it’s his charity work that is so inspiring. A scroll through his Facebook timeline reveals post after post announcing one philanthropic endeavor after another.
Most recently, he organized a clothing drive to ensure that homeless people on Los Angeles’s Skid Row have the warm clothes they need as the temperature lowers. There are many needy folks populating that area these days, unfortunately, and Hiccups goes down there time and time again to help them. He’s not doing it alone though. He’s one of those people who attracts other kind, charitable individuals, and the benevolent events he organizes draw a spectrum of people from a variety of walks of life, professions, geographical locations and ethnicities.
Upon reading that he was seeking donations and volunteers for the recent drive, I put a request out there for contributions. My friend Jenn Harding donated several big bags of clothing and hangers, and my friend Shari Blackwell (who owns The Undershirt, Inc. in Signal Hill) donated three large boxes of clothing samples from her company (brand-new things with tags still on them). My friend Jeny Lo not only donated several bags of clothing after collecting them from her friends, she also joined me last Sunday in going down to the Skid Row area to distribute them and help feed homeless people.
When we arrived, it became obvious that Hiccups had really rallied the troops and facilitated a very organized operation. There were about 100 of us volunteers! We helped unload cars and trucks full of clothing, then we worked to sort, hang and label everything. Then we gave pizza, cookies, bananas and bottled water to the people in need who had been waiting in line. We handed them baggies of clean socks (something Hiccups has learned is a very valuable possession when living on the streets), then they were given seven minutes to “shop” and pick out 10 articles of clothing. We helped them with sizes and then bagged the items for them.
It was so inspiring to see so many parents with their kids out there on this beautiful Sunday helping the less fortunate, but it was absolutely heartbreaking to see other kids, whose parents don’t have a home, coming through the line to get basic things. (Jeny and I later talked about how we were trying to not cry as we helped them.)
You could see it in their faces how grateful people were. However, there was one woman at the very front of the line who was getting upset that the people who had strolled up in wheelchairs were going to be allowed to select from the clothes before she could, and she was afraid someone else would take the jacket she had had her eye on. For a moment, I thought about how selfish she was. But then it became clear to me…. how, when you have nothing, and you’re bestowed this rare, golden opportunity to exercise your choice, and then it appears it will be taken away from you again, there is indeed something really upsetting about it. My judgment of her quickly turned from annoyance to pity, and I truly felt sorry for her. But I’m pretty sure she ended up getting that jacket.
Hiccups says there are two reasons he does this work. The first is that it gives kids a first-hand experience with helping those in need. He said that, as kids, we’re often told, “Don’t waste that food– there are starving people in the world.” But, when they can see the need and the desperation themselves, it becomes more meaningful and less of an abstract idea. I was moved by how many children volunteers there were last Sunday; and their families had them front and center, literally handing food and water to homeless individuals. I took a moment to observe the kids’ faces while they were participating. Each one had a similar countenance– a mix of apprehension, awe, sorrow and, ultimately, contemplation. My friend might be a clown, but he’s right. This volunteer effort would very likely do more than just provide a day of charity; it seemed to be fostering another generation of compassionate, giving people.
The second reason Hiccups facilitates these events of kindness is that it “brings out good people,” as he puts it.
In this crazy, unpredictable society of which we’re all a part, it was uplifting and reassuring for me to be amidst at least 100 of those “good people.”
Keep up the fantastic work, Hiccups the Clown!