Over Thanksgiving, our son, Caleb, came home from college. As we were catching up, something triggered two of his humorous childhood memories and brought back a hearty laugh.
Whenever Caleb would bend over, I would sneak up behind him and give him a lighthearted kick in the seat—just enough to throw him off balance and send him toppling a few steps forward. He would return a look of disgust, and we’d both laugh.
Then, whenever we were in a store, and someone would bend over near us, he or I would make a pose like a field goal kicker lining up for a “game-winning” boot. The pose usually would bring forth a stifled chuckle … and a panicked expression from my wife like a football coach running up and down the sidelines trying to wave off a kick.
His other memory usually occurred between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when Michelle was in the height of present wrapping. Whenever Caleb—and sometimes Laura—was really into watching a television program, I would find an empty wrapping paper roll and sneak up behind his chair. Then I’d raise one end just behind his ear, press my lips on the other end, and out would come a sound like a trumpeting elephant that would cause a lame man to bolt.
I know: Real mature, right? Still, sometimes a moment of laughter can bring us all a little closer, and turn a frown into a smile. As the proverb says,” A joyful heart brightens one’s face, but a troubled heart breaks the spirit.”
As I was cleaning up my basement office over the holidays—something I seldom do—I ran across a column titled “Laughter—Life’s Best Medicine,” written by my father-in-law, John Dever, in 1980, while he was a professor at Averett College. I’d like to share it with you:
“A few weeks ago my wife, Marcia, was relaxing with a new book and thoroughly enjoying it. It seems that every two minutes the silence was broken with laughter or a semi-self-directed, ‘That’s exactly the way it is.’ Finally, curiosity killed the husband. So when she laid ‘Aunt Erma’s Cope Book’ down for a minute, I snatched it up and began perusing the pages to see what could possibility elicit such a response from her. Before I knew it, I too was breaking forth with spontaneous bursts of laughter.
“Erma Bombeck had done it again. She had taken those irritating, tension-producing, anger-provoking, marriage threatening, everyday happenings and, with a peppering of sarcasm, over-exaggeration, and unusual wit, turned them into the medicine of laughter.
“There is little doubt that most of these problems that Erma deals with are traumatic and sometimes push us to the brink of our human endurance. But, that is just the point, we get too up-tight about these difficulties and instead of ruling the situation, the situation rules us.
“We need to learn to laugh at ourselves and some of our ridiculous situations. Once a little chuckle creeps through our pursed lips and clinched teeth the situation changes drastically. Some of the threat subsides and the problem seems to be reduced to a manageable size.”… I’m reminded that Jesus was not a man of total solemnity. He possessed that rare ability to cut through a difficult moment with first century humor that put the situation in the right perspective. For example, in the midst of the serious ethical teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, there is the passage in Matthew 7:3-5 dealing with criticizing others. Jesus says, ‘Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?’
“Now, that may not bring any laughter from the 20th-century, scientific man, but it probably brought a prolonged guffaw from Jesus’ audience. Laughter paved the way for dealing with the problem.
“Laughter is life’s best medicine. Try it. It works.”
In these days of terrorism, mass refugees, shootings and horrendous disasters in the headlines, we all could use a little more laughter. This Christmas, when the stress of shopping, parties and family gatherings produces a bit more angst than you can handle, find a way to bring a bright spot to someone else’s day. You will probably find yourself smiling, too. Oh, and a word to the wise: Before you bend over, be sure that Caleb and I aren’t anywhere around.