“It was a dark and stormy night.”
Snoopy, famous beagle and would be author
“Everybody loves a clown.”
Gary Lewis and the Playboys, rock and roll band
At Pickerington High School my senior year, Mrs. Tillie Brooks taught two subjects. The first subject, business and accounting, she taught to all students. The second subject, compassion, as far as I know she taught only me.
The dictionary definition of compassion is, “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.”
To set the stage let me tell you that I had a troubled youth. I struggled in school and with life. My solution, I thought at the time, was to enlist in the Marines. This was 1970 and the Vietnam War was still front page news. My future did not look all that rosy.
I needed to pass Mrs. Brooks class in order to receive my diploma. And from all indications, it wasn’t going to happen. But Tillie Brooks, the teacher famous for you get what you earn and you earn what you get, stepped in with a new plan of action. Allowing me to do some extra work and fudging my grade a bit, my grade card showed a C for compassion in accounting.
* * *
My name is Jerry Lee Snider. People ask me if I was named after the rock and roll legend, Jerry Lee Lewis. The answer is no. I was born before Mr. Lewis became famous. My grandmother named me Jerry Lee in honor of two of her favorite entertainers. They were Jerry Byrd and Ernie Lee. Mr Byrd played steel guitar on several recordings by Hank Williams Senior including the hits, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry and Lovesick Blues. He also worked with Dolly Parton and Pasty Cline. Ernie Lee was the singing host of several radio shows in the 40s and 50s.
And that brings us to Tillie number two.
She called me Joey.
I was very young and she was very scary. And no matter how many times or who in the family corrected her and told her my name was Jerry, to Aunt Tillie I was still Joey.
Turns out Aunt Tillie was a prophet.
A clown is a comical, silly, playful person.
And in circus lingo clowns are called Joeys in honor of Joseph Grimaldi a famous actor, comedian, and clown from England.
I consider my life mission to create hope and laughter. And every morning I stand in front of a mirror with a red clown nose on and say, “Today I’m going to make someone glad they met me.”
After this ritual, the nose goes back in my bathrobe pocket. But the spirit of the gesture stays with ms. So be on the look out for me.
I guess Aunt Tillie did okay. She knew something all those years ago that the rest of the world would wait to discover.
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”