One of the greatest blessings of producing documentary film is the opportunity to learn from interviews. It begins as a conversation that in itself is enlightening, but ultimately the wisdom of an interview is revealed at a much more profound level during the editing process. A much clearer picture presents itself when interviews are listened to over and over again in the context of other interviews which make the collective story. Sometimes people say things that seem so simple, yet change my life. Last week I tripped over a statement from an interview that will not let me go.

Fergie is a professional clown in Guatemala City who worked with Italo to develop the idea of a clown school for street children. After Italo’s death last year, Fergie continued this vision with passion and perseverance. We interviewed Fergie in November 2011 as part of our first production trip to Guatemala. He explained how he personally began clowning, and how he hopes to use clowning to help heal street children. I remember being inspired by his noble initiative during the interview and thinking it was a “neat idea”, but I didn’t realize just how profound his vision really is.

… Fast forward …

I have spent the last three months reviewing and evaluating footage and interviews from our November trip. I have read and listened to these stories over and over again. I have read books about street youth and I have listened to lectures about the issue. By no means do I consider myself an expert on the subject, but I do have a greater understanding now than I did 3 months ago. One thing that is unfortunately common in many stories of street youth is abuse. Some family member abused them – often repeatedly. Ironically, these children fled the danger of home to live in the safety of the streets. The memory of this pain often drives them to self medicate and becomes a dangerous cycle of drug abuse.

In a sense, their childhood has been stolen from them. It is this idea which is contrasted by profound wisdom from a clown. Fergie says,

“In the Bible there is a verse that says you must be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven. And children have a forgiving heart. I´ve seen them fighting with a friend, and half hour later they are playing together again. That (forgiveness) is something that we all should have.”

He goes on to say,

“And a clown has to be like a child as well. A clown is really a child – a silly child. In the same way a clown has to learn to forgive.”

Through the art of clowning, these children have the opportunity to learn forgiveness. This simple yet profound thought deepened my understanding of the Becoming Fools story. In the context of this issue, forgiveness is the first step towards rehabilitation. Anger and resentment drive these children into cycles of addiction. And … Anger and resentment keep these children in cycles of addiction. They will never leave the streets unless they can forgive the people who hurt them the most. Forgiveness is one of the most important parts of the healing process … letting go of the hurt that stings, letting go of the anger that overwhelms, and letting go of the obsession that controls … So that they may find the true peace that they have longed for.

Fergie is living out his faith by reaching out to children who have been abused by family and ignored by society. He isn’t simply teaching them to be silly. He isn’t just giving them vocational training. He is consistently investing in their lives and becoming a father figure they never had. He is teaching them to trust again and let go of their pain. He is igniting dreams and passion in their lives and as result renewing the hearts of children that were once stolen.

And THAT is authentically inspiring.

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