I love people who start a sentence with, “I have a funny story to tell.” It makes my ears perk up in anticipation of joy.
Growing up, my family spent every dinnertime trying to tell a story that was funnier than the last. Our dining room table was like a tiny comedy club, and we passed the microphone to each other ready for the next story.
Perhaps because laughter was our storied sustenance, I’m not big on tears.
Tears don’t flow out of my eyes like they do out of so many soap opera stars. You know the kind – in my day, Judith Light on One Life to Live could work up tears that flowed down her cheeks like tiny rivers of sparkling glass.
My tears are more violent. They dam up in my skull, causing my head to ache. As they reach my eyes, the result is redness and an immediate puffiness that will last approximately one week.
Finally, tears cause my esophagus to spasm, creating a sound that is a cross between barking and vomiting. I don’t think I ever had a boyfriend who was moved by my tears. Instead, my tears caused an immediate acceleration of the line, “I think it’s time that we see other people.”
Sad stories create tears that cause headaches and result in lost boyfriends.
But laughing, now that’s a different matter. . .
Laughter is my best friend. In fact, I am willing to laugh until I cry, because laughter bubbles up from my toes while eternal joy tumbles down to meet it. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott,
“Laughter is carbonated holiness.”
While tears cause people to approach me hesitantly (if at all), laughter is a thread that weaves us all together. Stories that evoke laughter are my drug of choice.
I remember the day my family prepared to take dad home from a hospital stay. His cancer had caused a clot in his lungs, but the danger had passed and mom was packing him up for the journey back to the house.
On this particular morning, mom was up to her eyeballs in tasks. Just as we were getting dad to sit up, a minister walked in and asked us to pray together. Please note that since my dad was a minister, a number of them had come in to pray over the past few days.
This minister was a bit bossier than most, and demanded that we all stand and join hands. So, we all joined hands . . . except for mother. While we prayed, you could hear mom slamming drawers as she stuffed dad’s clothes into his bag. At one point she cut through our circle to reach some medication on the windowsill.
When the minister said, “Lord, just be with him Lord,” mom sighed so loud it blew everybody’s hair back in the room.
Once the minister left, we all lost it. We laughed because we knew mom was tired and dad was better and the minister was annoying. We laughed because it felt good. We laughed because we preferred to tell THAT story.
I’ve never seen sincere, spontaneous laughter make anything worse.
Laughter is a healing gift we don’t use often enough.
Don’t believe me? Watch this video of laughter as it contagiously spreads on a subway train (and I thought the only thing that spread on subways was disease and bedbugs).
Stay with the video for at least two minutes. Watch how peoples’ faces change, how their moods lighten, how their holiness starts to show.
Because, in the face of laughter, we cannot feel separation. We have to, for just a moment, admit that we are all in this together.
And we like us. We really, really like us.