“The most important decision a person makes in life is who their parents are.”
- somebody, sometime and somewhere
At the very end of the tour, on our last visit to the Christian Mission in Tijuana - where we had been fed every evening for the past week - I was told that the group of 9 teenage boys would like it if I sat and ate with them. The group relayed questions through the one among them who was most confident with their English, and he would occasionally double check his translation with an elder.
They were curious to speak to me in particular, I think, because we had shared a couple of spontaneous jams on the instruments used for their church services. They asked me questions like: how many instruments do you play? How did you learn to play them? How did you learn about circus? Why are you all doing this? I answered their questions as best I could, while keeping in mind that my translator would then be relaying this back to his peers.
My answers boiled down to a common theme: access and support. Growing up I had access to musical instruments, to a father who loves to sing, friends who possessed and played other instruments, an extended family of comedy writers, performers, educators and social workers. I believe I was born to do this work. It did not register with me until later that I had been speaking with youth, some of whom I could safely assume have been orphaned, about my good fortune of having supportive parents.
I recognize that I have absolutely no idea what these young people's family situations are actually like, but at least at the Mission they seem to have this scaffolding in place. There are a number of dedicated and talented musicians among the group, and the Mission has a variety of instruments at their disposal. They mentioned plans of starting a band. No one currently aspires to join a circus, but there was certainly some talent - and I am sure we nourished their interest.
And this is why a group of 8 performers would travel 1100 miles to put on a 45 minute show and workshop with no charge: to offer access and support.