by Jaclyn Fleishman ’07
There is no better way to describe what Deerfield has given me than Robert's notion of positive energy and endless possibilities.
I noticed his jewelry first. Silver rings and bracelets with tiny squares and triangles of indigo decorated his thin arms and fingers. He had silver hair to match, tied loosely at the nape of his neck and parted down the middle.
“I like your colors,” he said, commenting on the silky outfit I had gotten at the Salvation Army. I looked like one of those vacationers on a Caribbean cruise, but for now it was my “clowning” costume.
“Thank you,” I replied, “I’m Jackie from Deerfield Academy.” I extended my hand and he held it for a moment. “May I sit down?” He nodded in agreement.
It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was in the oncology unit of Franklin Medical Center. There were five patients receiving treatment at the time and two of my fellow clowns were laughing and striking up conversations with the other patients.
Coming here had become part of our weekly routine in the “Clowning Around Club.” I started the club in 2006 after doctor and clown Patch Adams’ visit to campus, and our hope was to spread Patch’s vision of laughter and joy to local healthcare facilities. To do this, we “clowned” each week with colorful clothes, red noses, and reassuring smiles.
This afternoon I found myself sitting with a man I did not know, while he received chemo through an IV in his wrist. “I like your rings,” I said, hoping to spark conversation.
“Oh, these,” he chuckled, “Sorry, I did not even get a chance to introduce myself. My name is Robert Runningfox.” And so it began. Robert told me his life story: how he was a Seneca Indian from upstate New York who grew up in teepees and was raised by his grandmother. He revealed the meaning behind his various adornments and told me his grandmother was a shaman, a medicinal healer. He explained the concepts of negative and positive energy and the various centers of the body and then he extended his hands palm-up towards me. I placed my hands in his.
“I’m going to read your energy,” he said. He closed his eyes and after a moment he said, “You have a positive energy. You will do great things.” He let go of my hands and smiled.
“I wish I had a name like yours,” I laughed.
“You can,” Robert said, “what would it be?”
I thought for a second, “Jackie Dancingdeer,” I replied.
There is no better way to describe what Deerfield has given me than Robert’s notion of positive energy and endless possibilities. Deerfield Academy is a busy place, but it is busy with what you love to do. Whether you are going from class to a sports game, a club meeting, a dance rehearsal, or an evening in the Greer with your friends, Deerfield is alive with positive energy.
Upon one’s arrival on campus, there are some things that one notices immediately, like Robert’s silver rings—the historic brick buildings, the glowing Koch Center, the impeccably mowed quads, but if you ask the right questions, and take the time to explore, there are also unforgettable stories and unlimited possibilities within.
I have read the classics, done physics labs with magnets, and struggled through math problems in the classroom, but Deerfield is as much about what you learn beyond the classroom as it is what you learn inside. While I may not change my name to Jackie Dancingdeer, I know that I have the ability to do so. Deerfield has opened my eyes to what is possible, and now, has left it to me to decide what exactly it is I want to do.
Jaclyn Fleishman ’07