“I have that book,” the first grader said quietly, “and the doll. I got them when I was at the hospital.”
I don’t always get to meet the children cheered up by The Jester book and doll.
But I did at the end of an assembly at Murchison Street Elementary School in Los Angeles a few years ago. Erik came up to me to tell me that he had a tumor, too, just like the little girl in the story The Jester Has Lost His Jingle. He said that he loved the story and that it helped him feel better.
When I mentioned this to his literacy coach, she said that he had never talked about his illness before. Something in David’s story and my talking about how he had created it while battling cancer emboldened Erik to come forward.
A few weeks later, Erik came forward again – this time to be recognized by all his classmates. They had read nearly 150,000 pages in Erik’s honor to give Jester books and dolls to other hospitalized children in a program sponsored by the USC Good Neighbors Campaign.
Erik, with his mother, smiled proudly as he read the label affixed to 35 Jester books and 35 Jester & Pharley Dolls donated to White Memorial Medical Center: “This gift of laughter donated in honor of Erik H. by his classmates at Murchison Elementary School.”
I think about Erik a lot lately. And about the thousands of other children helped by The Jester Has Lost His Jingle. When people ask me what I do, I tell them about Erik.