Clown Story Contest: Clown Spotlight (Deanna "SonBeam" Austin)

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In this blog post, I got the chance to interview one of our "Honorable Mentions" from our recent Clown Story Contest. I absolutely love being able to speak to other clowns, learning about their life story, and where they're headed into the future as a clown.

We as clowns come from different walks of life, faith and careers. Some clowns are destined for the circus, others are party clowns, there's the busker, the hospital volunteer and even ministry clowns (among many other types). As someone who used to do ministry clowning, and hopefully will get back into it one day, I particularly found a fondness to this one interview I recently had with "SonBeam".

 

Question 1: First off, can you give us a quick outline of where you got to today as a clown? Did you always know you wanted to be a clown? If not, how'd you find out that you were meant to be one?

SonBeam: "Nearly 20 years ago I went on my first Foreign Mission’s trip with my church. Everyone on the team had a job to perform . . .teaching Bible Study, canvasing neighborhoods, cooking meals for the team etc. A team was to go into the local schools for evangelism. Did I mention we were to be in England where schools were open to the Word? Many years ago, when I graduated from High School, I was voted wittiest in my class for the Senior Year Book.  With that credential, I decided to be a Clown for the kids in the schools in which we would be ministering. The joke was on me, I didn’t know how to apply make-up, and certainly couldn’t think of anything funny to do! On the plane home, I told my husband it was fun being a “pretend Clown”, but I wanted to learn to be a “real clown”. I loved to bring smiles, which I did without trying too hard, but I wanted to learn the art. I knew that first moment in the first school, this was on my “Bucket List” upon my return home!"

Question 2: Care to share a favorite story of yours of a time you were in clown?

SonBeam: "I have so many favorite stories, that to pick one out in particular is a feat. I have a ministry where I go into many nursing homes and play my accordion and the residents sing along with me. Funny things always happen in this scenario, but I believe my very favorite story is the story I sent in to Clown Antics Amazing Clown Story Contest that I submitted a few weeks ago.

To tell my clown story, I need to go back in time to the year 2005. At that point, my son died very unexpectedly. He had injured his back and was in severe pain for a long time. He was put on pain medications to which he became addicted.  He gained 200 pounds and his heart was not strong enough to maintain the added stress. He lost his life.

The clown, named Miss Effie, stopped feeling joy which only God can bring. As a clown, we can’t fake joy. I had to stop clowning for a season. I just couldn’t understand why my son had to lose his life. Pushing the clock forward, I knew to be a happy Christian, I had to forgive God for my hurt and loss, and as I was reminded, know “it’s not all about me.”  You have probably seen the sticker, “Clowns bring laughter, but only God brings Joy.” So, I reentered the clowning world, changing my name and my focus. Several missions’ trips and assisted living facilities later brings me to my favorite story.  

I was invited to take a mission’s trip to El Salvador. Before we were to leave I asked our coordinator to please get SonBeam special permission to visit a prison. This was highly unusual, but it was worked out with the government officials. SonBeam would visit a holding prison! 

Upon entry into this prison, one couldn’t hear because of the noise level as inmates were beating on their cell bars with any item they could find. Speaking through the interrupter I told them to be quiet as I had something very important to tell them. At that point, you could hear a pin drop.  They must have been wondering, “What is this Clown doing here?  What could this Clown tell me of importance?”  I proceeded to tell them how I was a clown mom and told the story about my son, his addiction and his death. But, my consolation was, I knew where he was spending eternity as he had accepted Jesus and I explained to them how they could also know for certain their destiny. How amazing for this clown to see 100 plus inmates accept Jesus that day. I really do not believe anything in my Clown life could ever top the feeling of love and amazement that I received that day."

Question 3: Tell us, what is being a clown mean to you? What makes a clown "a clown"? Where do you see the future of clowning in today's society and on? Feel free to share some advice for the next generation of clowns.

SonBeam: "Clowns have been in our world for centuries and I personally don’t see them going anywhere! There have been those people who have tried to take a wonderful little clown who only wants to give love to others and try to make them ugly and scary to some. As long as there is an earth, there will be good and bad. But we know the end of the story! I will continue to clown for as long as I have breath to do so. I told my husband I wanted to be buried in my clown shoes, as no one could fill my shoes. No one can fill your shoes either as we are all totally different clowns and that makes each one of us special. I say to you, give clowning a try and see how much pleasure you will receive because you are giving to others. Yes, there is an art to clowning. Ask any clown and he or she will tell you that you too can learn this art!"

 

I special thanks to Deanna "SonBeam" Austin for sharing some very touching information and an emotional story. Many people don't realize the emotional power we clowns have, but once they experience that power...boy is it something else. This interview is definitely proof in the pudding of that power.


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