It is always sad to learn that a friend has died. But, somehow it is even more sad when the cause of death is trivial in comparison to the life they once lived. One of our friends in Guatemala died unexpectedly. His name was Italo and he was a professional clown who spent his spare time serving youth who live on the streets of Guatemala City. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been shot. The streets of Guatemala City are violent. But our friend wasn’t murdered, he drown by accident while swimming in Lake Atitlan. Again, he drowned. This shocks me and I ask myself, “why? What is the point?”
We met Italo a couple years ago on our first Athentikos production trip to Guatemala. He had a magnificently charming personality. We immediately sensed his heart for the youth who had for one reason or another fled their homes to live on the street. His story was beautifully simple, yet so profound. He put on clown makeup to “pay the bills” by entertaining children who had families, so he could take off his makeup and spend his life giving Hope to these street youth. Their somber faces radiated joy when he arrived. He was the family they never had. He brought joy to the joyless, hope to the hopeless, through the love of Christ poured out in life.
In a perfect world, Italo would have continued to share his gifts of life and laughter for years to come. But we don’t live in a perfect world. His life of service was cut short by a seemingly random tragedy and I find myself asking why? With all of the struggle in Guatemala, why would such a “good man” be called up in the middle of such a seemingly selfless life that was making such a difference? How does Italo’s death actually proclaim the truth of the God louder than Italo’s service to the homeless when he was alive?
I can ask over and over, but I simply do not know how Italo’s death plays into the “big story” that is unfolding. I might not ever know the answers to these questions, and honestly, it doesn’t matter in the end. Even if I never know any thing else, I know God wove Italo’s story into mine in a way that gave me a fresh perspective on God’s love. That alone is enough to honestly believe life does have purpose. There are several street youth in Guatemala would would agree with me. Italo brought us joy. From what I know of God, I would say Italo brought God joy too. To quote a friend, “Italo is now … In His Presence … Clowning for the King.”