“Laughter is like a windshield wiper. It doesn’t stop the rain, but it allows us to keep going” – Anonymous
Last week was one of the hardest weeks I’ve ever had. On Monday morning, I found out that Tim, one of my best friends, passed away suddenly. It was a shock to those of us who knew him. Judging from all those at his funeral on Saturday, he was loved by many hundreds more that felt the same way I did. There were many stories shared and a lot of laughs. The funeral director even commented that he was sad he never knew him. Tim always had a smile on his face. When he walked in a room, he brightened it. He certainly did for me and our close friends. We would spend almost every Friday afternoon together at a local watering hole and I so looked forward to those times. I will miss him dearly and the many laughs we shared together.
On Wednesday, we had our first reading of “Another Mulligan”, a comedic play I’ve been working on. There was a vast dichotomy between the tears and anguish of Monday and Tuesday and the laughter that ensued on Wednesday night. If laughter is truly the best medicine, then what happened Wednesday night was quite the cathartic experience. We laughed until we cried. One person mispronounced “voila” as the musical instrument “viola” instead of saying “wah-lah” (as it was intended) and you’d think the greatest joke of all time had been told. I was timing each scene and I had to pause a minute or two so we could all laugh it off. I so needed that 90 minutes of an emotional break mid-week and I’m so thankful to be surrounded by such great friends who can make me laugh when I need it the most.
On Thursday, I went out with a few friends and we talked about Tim and recounted some very funny stories and quotes. Again, this was healing in a way as it relieved the pain we were feeling. As the quote above says, the laughter didn’t stop the rain – or pain, as it may be, but it allowed us to keep going. Friday was hard and Saturday was horrible until, once again, laughter came to the rescue. I will never forget the funny stories shared at the funeral. One of them was this: Tim was a scout leader, and apparently one time in the middle of a week at scout camp, Tim got back to his tent and said something like “I don’t ever want to listen to another f*ckin campfire song again” and proceeded to take a swig out of his “adult canteen”. LOL. It’s strange to say, but I’ve been to several funerals in the past six months (unfortunately) and the things I’ll remember most are the great stories and laughter that came out of those.
Many years ago, I helped spearhead a new ministry in town named Lamplighter. This is a 48-hour very intense spiritual weekend. My job was to provide the dramatic and comedic elements for the weekend. When we first started, I played several different parts. Most of them were funny in nature and of course I really enjoyed making everyone laugh. I remember after a few years of doing this, the guy who helped start it (Gene) thanked me for everything I was doing on the weekend. I just downplayed it and said that it was nothing – I was just acting like a goofball to get some laughs. And then he said something very profound – he said no, it was much more than that. He said the men and women going through that weekend retreat were experiencing some major gut-wrenching things in their lives and a lot of those things would bring out a lot of serious emotions. Pain, regret, heartache, denial, and much more. It was all there. So Gene said the laughter was very important and he said I shouldn’t downplay the importance of that element in the weekend.
Gene was right. Laughter is important. In fact, life throws curveballs at us that make us feel all kinds of emotions. Many of them are hard emotions to deal with. But, laughter seems to make things better. It doesn’t heal the wounds – and we shouldn’t use laughter as an excuse not to deal with serious issues – but it certainly helps us get through things. We need to feel emotions and not deny them, but most importantly…
We need to laugh.
Many studies such as this one by the University of Oxford show the physiological side of laughter. Laughter releases endorphins, which are the brains “feel good” chemicals. These are the same chemicals released during other activities such as exercising, eating good food, being in love and having sexual intercourse. Put simply, laughing physically makes us feel good. We like to laugh. We like to be around people who make us laugh. For me, I like to see and hear when people laugh and I like the feeling I get knowing that I just threw something out there that got a laugh. In a way, it feeds me and makes me want to do more.
“Laughter is a good thing. Scientists tell us that laughter, humor and joy are an important part of life. Laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and increases muscle flexion. It increases the circulation of antibodies in the blood stream and makes us more resistant to infection.” – from The Five Most Important Reasons to Laugh.
I don’t know about you, but I surround myself with sources of laughter. I listen to comedy podcasts, watch comedy programs, subscribe/follow countless sources of comedy on social media, etc. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I go to one of these sources and suddenly the real world disappears for a minute or two or an hour or more. And – for those that follow me on social media – I often re-share things that I find funny in the hopes that these things might pick you up as well. We certainly are surrounded by enough pain/grief/political crap in this world to make us want to puke. Humor helps unite, not divide. Again, humor is not to be used to avoid our problems – by all means we should address them – but it does help us cope with our everyday lives. I know what you’re probably thinking… “surely you can’t be serious”.
Side note: my mom’s name is Shirley. I am serious!
Let’s face it. Sometimes life really sucks. Things happen. Our days don’t go as planned. Our jobs can be stressful, so can our schoolwork and home lives. Relationships can come and go, and some can go really bad. We can have a bad commute to or from somewhere, or be in the middle of a really bad weather day, or just be down in the dumps for no apparent reason. Before you go thinking you need to medicate yourself more via whatever your drug – or drink – of choice, you might consider laughing a bit. Sometimes it really is the best medicine.
Some questions for you:
- How often do you laugh?
- Do you need to laugh more?
- What sources of humor do you have in your life?
- If you have the gift of humor, do you use it to brighten the lives of those around you?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to doing some serious reading.