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  • “You do a wonderful job making Harvard Square a magical place for children”, whispered a tall older man with white hair and a camera around his neck. I stood completely still just letting the smile on my face grow ever so slightly. Many of my friends bag groceries or scoop ice cream. That stuff never interested me. Living in suburbia can be a dull existence, so I made my own job. I like to call the position Executive Distributor of Sensory Enjoyment. I was fourteen when I became a professional clown.
      When the New England weather allows, I enter a world of brick sidewalks, crowding strangers, and long brightly colored balloons. I strum my four-string banjo as Ollie's accordion breathes in and out, humming those traditional European waltzes I have heard her play over and over again.
    The first time I busked was with Ollie, my clowning partner. Separate we are solid performers: Ollie with her accordion, me with my banjo. Together, we are magic. With our black and white striped tights, top hats, and red noses, our stage is the street our product is a moment. A moment when you can forget yourself and leave that world of stress and worry to enter ours. Our price? What ever you decide it’s worth.
    I define a ‘tip’ as not simply a coin at the bottom of a hat, but a gesture that says I appreciate what you are doing and it is worth something to me. Some of the best tips I have ever received have been a smile, a compliment, a moment of connection. I once had an older man and a young women approach me together as I performed alone as a living statue, a character I have I added for days when Ollie is unavailable. They didn't have money, but asked if there was anything I would like them to pray for? did my back hurt? Was there anything I needed? There wasn't. So I told them my feet were a bit cold. Right then and there they stopped closed their eyes and prayed out loud: “Thank you God and Jesus for Bianca and everything she does please let her feet be warm, so she can stay outside in this cold and do this as long as she wishes!”  
    The best tips come from children, who truly are the best audience. When I see a child hiding behind her mother’s coat eyeing my basket of balloons, I'll put down my banjo or juggling balls, and quickly twist a shiny red one into the shape of a dog. The look on her face is the same as all the children who happen upon me when I hand them that balloon: amazed.  They stay and stare for a while, and as their parents drag them away, they look back and I wave.
    If there is one thing I have learned from performing on the street with Ollie and on my own, it is that people are beautifully insane and lonely creatures. Busking has a completely different dynamic than performing in front of an audience that has paid admission to be entertained; that audience sits down with the mindset that you owe them something. On the street, no one expects anything from you. You are giving yourself to anyone and everyone, whether they stop to watch or see you only in a glance as they hurry by. Whether you are homeless or homemaker, a clerk or a CEO, you can be a part of my audience. Maybe you are having a bad day. And maybe just for a minute, I can make you smile. If I can give even just a moment of distraction, a moment that allows you to be in the present and forget the bad parts of life, then I have accomplished what I set out to do. 
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