It was getting darker and the snow was coming down much more quickly. We were about ten years old, I and the two boys, and we had gone to the little neighborhood store with their mom to get some last minute groceries in case the East Coast blizzard snowed us in. We waited in the car while their mom went inside. That’s what we were told to do. By the time she emerged with an armful of packages, the temperature had dropped to the point of freezing the moist fallen snow on the sidewalk into a sheet of ice and the wind had begun to blow fiercely. We watched out the window as the mom’s attempts to make it back to the car turned into a Charlie Chaplin slapstick comedy. The initial gasp of concern for her safety quickly deteriorated into hysterical laughter as we watched her battle the wind to keep her balance while slipping and sliding on the ice. Why didn’t we get out to help? Because we were told to stay in the car, and the wind was shaking the car so badly, that we were actually afraid of opening the door. By the time she made it safely back to the car, we were able to suppress our hysteria into a polite snickering. She was a kind, petite lady, and I was more concerned than her sons were, that she might have had her feelings hurt. Suddenly, the storm and impending power failure did not seem so ominous. I’m sure we weren’t the only children in the world who laughed at inappropriate times.
We seem to live in such drama today. Troubles, tragedies and worries left and right, and a hectic pace seem to milk the last amount of joy from our lives. We can’t seem to slow down enough to care of ourselves, to relax and have a funny moment.
When was the last time you laughed so hard that it took your breath away? I’m not talking about that polite, controlled “he-he” that we feel we need to utter in public out of politeness. Remember how you felt when something triggered that deep gut laugh and then afterwards how good it felt? And it was residual. Thinking back to the trigger often sparked another round of laughter.
We take ourselves so seriously. Even harmless little misadventures unnecessarily become a matter of life and death, even though they make for great entertainment if we remove ourselves from the drama. My mother was a master at that.
I remember coming home from school one evening and sitting down for supper with the family. It seemed to be unusually quiet, so I knew something was amiss. My brother, who was twelve at that time, was the last to come to the table. I took one look at his face and burst out laughing. It was completely peppered with black specks, and I wasn’t sure if it was red from embarrassment or something else. My father, a machinist, had made a miniature cannon for by brother for a school project. My brother took it upon himself to get some gun powder so he could fire it, for which it was not designed. The cannon backfired and the gun powder embedded itself in my brother’s face. My mother took it seriously enough . . . arranged doctor’s appointments, chastised both my brother and father for not thinking and reminding them that this could have cost him an eye. Fortunately, it didn’t and all turned out well. But we still managed to laugh about the whole incident especially when my brother described it that evening, and continued to laugh many years later. The laughter was a release for all of us because it balanced out the worry and concern.
A sense of humor has to be nurtured and encouraged like every other character trait. As children, we were never chastised or punished for laughing. It was just as easy for us to laugh at ourselves as it was to laugh at someone else’s misadventure, provided nobody was seriously injured.
There is no humor in the Colorado shootings, in people running for their lives from a wildfire or flood, or in the murder or abuse of living beings. It’s impossible to think about laughing when dealing with tragedies like these. Many of us who survive something horrific often feel guilty about feeling happy , let alone laughing over anything. It takes time to heal wounds, and at some point, we need to give ourselves permission to step back, to find and appreciate the little moments and harmless misadventures that trigger that wonderful laughter that allows us to stay healthy, and that provides us with much needed relief and balance.
Laughter, joy and love are the ultimate healers for all the hurt in our lives, and they walk beside us, together, on this journey, this life.