Thursday, May 25th marks the celebration of Red Nose Day in the US, a fundraising event dedicated to eradicating child poverty. A large pharmacy chain is the exclusive purveyor of the Red Noses. Half the proceeds of the sale go to support the good works of child charities. I love when companies incentivize positive behavior. I’m generally inclined to do the right thing, but getting a prize for doing so is all the sweeter. I’ve donated blood for a free umbrella. I gave cash to a television network for a tote bag. I ran a 5K for a T-shirt. I’m stoked to buy a clown nose. A Red Nose costs only one dollar plus tax.
As far as clown noses go, these are of superior quality. They aren’t squishy foam spheres that are troublesome affixing to your schnoz. For a clown nose, it’s a firm, crimson masterpiece. Why do I know so much about clown noses? Well, I know a little bit about a lot of things.
If you want to know more about clowns, here are some surprising holdings Touro Library has in its collection:
The education of a circus clown: Mentors, audiences, mistakes / David Carlyon
Clowns, fools and picaros: Popular forms in theatre, fiction and film / edited by David Robb.
Clown through mask: The pioneering work of Richard Pochinko as practised by Sue Morrison / by Veronica Coburn and Sue Morrison.
But if you think I’m only clowning around, then you don’t know me. (Although admittedly, I was interested in presenting this topic for the opportunity to appear in clown make-up.) In writing, I always take the scenic route, but now that I have shown you the sights, it’s time to get back to the main road.
Let’s talk charity. Charity is a concept that is fundamental to the Jewish tradition, and is also a precept of many other faiths. Since I am no authority, I looked at one of the many resources available from Touro Libraries to better my understanding. Here is a very nice encyclopedia entry on the topic from the New Encyclopedia of Judaism, available through Credo Reference. (The word “here” is hyperlinked in case you haven’t noticed. Go ahead, click on it!) It discusses charity (tsedakah), the use of one’s money to help the poor. If you look at Touro’s catalog, we have 27 items with the keyword tsedakah, and 14 with the variant (Americanized) spelling tzedakah. But wait! If you look at QuickSearch, to take into account all electronic materials, there are 259 results for tsedakah, and 6728 results for tzedakah. That’s a whole lot of charity! In case you are under the impression that kindness is a recent concept, you are mistaken. (Hey Oprah, you didn’t invent “random acts of kindness”.) Acts of loving kindness (from the Hebrew “gemilut hasadim”) can be accomplished with monetary contributions or good deeds, and has been around longer than a television talk show.
It is easy to become inured to the armies of alms-seekers who are strolling the sidewalks. It is an obstacle course out there. The streets are a minefield littered with workers, clipboards in hand, seeking contributions. “Save the trees.” “Save the whales.” “Save the world.” “Can you pledge? We take credit cards.” You can ignore them. Just take out your phone and pretend to be talking.
Did someone say something about someone helping those who help themselves? Maybe I imagined it, but I thought I heard, “If these kids can’t afford food, they should get better jobs.” “Why do they even need dinner? Can’t that school lunch tide them over till school breakfast?” “What’s all this talk about food insecurity? If people are insecure about food, they should use better recipes, then their meals will turn out tastier.”
I would like to think that we all agree that no one should go hungry, particularly a child. Child poverty is not the child’s fault. I hope everyone is inclined to do the right thing. Support Red Nose Day. You can either pick the philanthropic organization of your choosing, or you can pick your Nose.