April 8, 2015

Okay, so I guess it’s time to get back in the saddle. It’s been a while since I wrote one of these. I’m not sure why. Distracted and tired I guess. Anyway…

Years ago at my first church, we had a special Sunday where 12 of the younger children dressed up as “saints of the church.” One little boy was the Apostle Paul, a little girl was Mother Theresa, and so on. The costumes they wore were appropriate for the eras of the individuals they were representing and parents were responsible for putting them together. The children came into the sanctuary one at a time while two high school students read a one page biography of each “saint.” It was really fun and it helped us to understand our Christian heritage a little better.

The chaplain at the local county nursing facility heard about what we had done and he asked if we could “take it on the road.” He explained that the senior citizens love to see kids and this would be a great chapel service for them.

On the day we were to take the children to the nursing home, we met at the church first and had lunch together. I figured the kids would be a bit nervous about what we were about to do so I sat them down and tried to allay their fears. I told them that they would be surrounded by older people most of who would be in wheelchairs but not to be afraid because myself and other adults would be with them. I also mentioned that some of the folks might make noises or say things. And then I said this, “Whatever you do… DON’T LAUGH. That would be very disrespectful.” Honestly I was a little concerned about that.

The event didn’t start very smoothly because the chaplain wasn’t there and the folks from the church were responsible for transporting the residents to the service. We had a list that the had been prepared for us with all of the room numbers. What we didn’t know, however, were which residents to put near the exit so they could easily be wheeled out if they got out of control vs. those who were a little more cooperative. So we naively stuffed everyone randomly into the small chapel, shoulder to shoulder, wheel to wheel.

The children nervously began one at a time to come into the room, squeeze past wheelchairs, and I would then lift them onto a table for everyone to see as our high school students read. One man in the middle of the room (and therefore impossible to get out) began to get anxious after the 2nd or 3rd student. His protestations progressively rose as each youngster was lifted for all to see. Finally somewhere between Mother Theresa and Billy Graham he blurted out a four letter expletive for everyone in the room and beyond to hear. My fears of the children laughing were quickly quelled. Frankly, they were too frightened. Their eyes were like saucers and they each had a panicked look on their face. I wish I could say the story ended there but not quite. Guess who did laugh? Yeah, you got it… THE MINSTER! I had to cover my face to try and stifle the laughter. The truth is, sometimes we just have to find the humor in things lest we grow cynical, sad and negative.

We have all been around 3 and 4 year olds who blurt out an inappropriate phrase they heard dad or grandpa say. As much as we want to tell them or show them in no uncertain terms that that kind of language isn’t tolerated, we often have to stop our hidden laughter first.

You can’t spend much time with brain damaged people or Alzheimer patients without laughing. Not out of disrespect… but to maintain our sanity. We laugh because if we don’t, we’ll cry.

My grandfather lived for 7 years after a debilitating stroke. His speech didn’t fully come back and his brain never worked right again. I remember laughing with him as he himself would hear some of the things he said. He tried to tell Ellen and me that he liked the music of “Liberace.” He kept saying, “Booberlitchy, Booberlitchy!” How we figured it out I don’t know but we all had a good laugh. It’s one of my better memories of his last years. All this time later and still a tear rolls down my cheek as I recall the pain… but mostly the laughter.

One doesn’t have to read very far through the Psalms to find people in pain. Psalm 13 is a good place to start. Someone is in serious emotional trouble and they cry out to God.

Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

4and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6I will sing the Lord’s praise,

for he has been good to me.

Like all of us I have had my share of “troubled times:” those times when laughter is not “in the cards.” So I’m thankful for those moments when laughter is healing; when humor brings me closer to those who love me; when “the giggles” allow me to put things into proper perspective.

The truth is, things are not usually as bad as I think they are. Thank God for the gift of laughter.


3 thoughts on “Laughter

  1. This is marvelous, Bill.

    Christopher Fay
    Executive Director
    303 S. Maple Avenue
    Falls Church, VA 22046
    (703) 237-2035 x 118

    Homestretch has earned many honors including the Governor’s Best Housing Program in Virginia Award, the Blue Diamond Award from the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce for Outstanding NonProfit, and awards from Leadership Fairfax, Volunteer Fairfax, and the Washington Post; and Homestretch has been selected three times for inclusion in the Catalogue for Philanthropy. Homestretch is a member of the United Way and Combined Federal Campaign.

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