I recently participated in the 2009 “Thinking Outside the Box” conference. This is a four-day intensive, sponsored by Dr. Patch Adam’s Gesundheit! Institute and the School for Designing Society at the University of Illinois. It’s intended for people interested in redesigning the current healthcare system. The attendees are primarily healthcare professionals, lots of students, and even some patients.

This year’s conference was held at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. This is a museum for people who find traditional art museums boring. In front of the building is a full-sized school bus covered with a mosaic of reflective mirrors and onto which is glued a mind-boggling array of “stuff.” Next to it is an 8-foot sculptured egg, and behind it is a 50-foot bird disguised as a bass guitar whose beak is dipping into a bird’s nest that grows out of the museum’s wall. It was the perfect venue for dreamers.

I joined one of the breakout sessions where five Austrian medical students wanted ideas, tools and strategies to get their medical school to add an elective on clowning as a healing modality. I told them I was going to be in Austria later in the year, and if the Medical School invited me, I’d be happy to present to students and faculty.

Our discussions continued into the night; we talked about how one’s healing practice needs to include a “love strategy.” Finding ways to connect with people, listen to them, touch their hearts by opening your own — that’s your love strategy.

In a boisterous Irish bar, we talked about community mental health, visionary healthcare practices, and told clowning stories from around the world that lasted far beyond my usual bedtime.

Surrounded by students in a downtown pub, and feeling their energy, I feel in my soul that there is hope for healthcare and the holy work we do as healers.

I love these places that nurture dreamers.