Recently, Papi the Clown met and became very good friends with Fr Daniel Federspiel, who is the Provincial of the Southern France region. As a child, Papi was unable to go to school and never had the opportunity to read, write or do mathematics. He has always wanted to learn these things, but was always scared that he will get teased and made fun of when people find this out about him.
To help rectify this, Fr Daniel wrote a letter to the young people of the 6 Salesian primary schools in Aveyron, on behalf of his new friend (in an extraordinary coincidence, one would be forgiven for confusing the two, as they look very similar to one another…!)
The letter explained the situation, and finished with a request to the young people – would they be happy to accept Papi into the classroom, and help him learn his letters and numbers? On reading the letter, the children all happily accepted to welcome him and did not lack for words to reassure Fr Daniel that Papi would be well looked after: "everyone is moving at our own pace", "we will not leave him alone", "we will explain "," we will not make fun of him "," we are all here to learn! "
And so, this is how Papi came to visit the grade preps, ones and twos. The preps and grade ones taught Papi how to read letters, syllables and words, but decided to go slow so it wouldn’t be too hard for him! The grade twos then furthered his education by explaining multiplication, as well as how to spot the subject, the verb and even some geometry!
Whispers abounded among the teachers that Fr Daniel and Papi are one and the same but whatever the truth may be,the students had an incredible time with Papi!
For the students, this was obviously an occasion to reflect on the importance of acceptance difference and respect for others. Everyone was able, at their own level, to offer what they know to Papi the Clown and help him overcome his weaknesses. They were made aware of learning difficulties and became aware of the chance to be able to learn and transmit in turn.
In return, Papi the Clown, who is an excellent magician, taught them some magic tricks: “You teach me what you can do, and I will teach you magic” was the deal he struck with the young people. At the heart of these meetings, Papi the Clown conveyed a very important message to the young people "We are rich, not from what we have but from what we decide to share".
The teachers were also very happy with Papi’s influence in the classroom. “It's a unique teaching experience that will nourish them (the young students) and that they will not soon forget. A breath of pure and fresh air in this somewhat strange period, ” said one of the teachers.
Thus this wonderful story about Papi the Clown ends after Papi returns to his home in Paris. With his new skills, Papi wrote to the students, warmly thanking them for helping him make such incredible progress in such a short time, with so much patience and affection towards him!
With thanks to Bosco Net for this story