I AM SERIOUS
I was in my early 20s working in a local grocery store stocking the produce section when I met someone I had never met before. It wasn’t just the fact that I didn’t know her, but it was that the type of person she was I had never met before and haven’t encountered her likeness since. That’s been over 30 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday.
by todd goodwin
Positive psychology names the propensity for laughter and sense of humor as one of the 24 main signature strengths one can possess. However, most adults don’t laugh enough. One study suggests that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day. Wow, that is a big difference.
I was placing heads of lettuce in a nice, straight line—10 up and 6 across, all the logos facing the same way. It made for a beautiful and pleasing display of green ruffage for only .89 cents per head. I had my boom box (this was way before personal listening devices like iPhones, Air pods, or anything like them) out in the produce area, listening to the radio. I don’t remember what was playing. I’m sure it was some rhythmic synthesizer sound pulsating (80s music) over the speakers, something along the lines of A Flock of Seagulls or Duran Duran. Either way, I was enjoying it and moving to the rhythm, as I always do, when the person of interest spoke words I had never heard in my life and haven’t heard since. I was bebopping around when we caught eyes and she said, “I don’t like music!” I stopped and gazed at her, not knowing what to say. She continued, “I don’t find any use for it.” I was still reeling from the first statement when the second wave of unbelievable information came hurling toward my ears.
I went back to stacking lettuce and just stared speechless into the green display of non-nutritional, edible leaves. Then, it hit me: I felt sorry for this woman. Sorry for the fact that she couldn’t find joy in the auditory beauty of music. Sorry for the fact that she wouldn’t open herself up to something outside of herself that wasn’t meant for practical purposes but for enjoyment to the body, soul, and spirit.
I said, “Oh, I’m sorry. You don’t like rock music?”
“No, I don’t like any music,” she replied.
That’s when I looked up from the salad section and looked her straight in the eye and said, “I’m so sorry!” I truly was sorry for her. Needless to say, but I’m going to say it anyway, she wasn’t the happiest person I had ever met.
The point of this story is that sometimes we need to engage in something that’s not necessarily practical and pragmatic but something that is just meant to be fun, exciting, and enjoyed. God didn’t create us as robots, existing just to fulfill our “prime directive”. I’m not saying that our purpose is not important; it absolutely is. What I am saying is that we need to loosen up and laugh more.
Science has proven what King Solomon said years ago in his book of Proverbs, “Laughter does good like a medicine.” Research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. Studies have shown that laughter can help:
bring greater happiness
Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine, and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells we have working for us and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress. A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs, and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart. Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a threat or a challenge. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as challenges, thereby making them less threatening and more positive.
Laughter connects us with others. Just as with smiling and kindness, most people find that laughter is contagious. So, if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more and realize these benefits as well. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can reduce their stress levels and perhaps improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more! (https://www.verywellmind.com/the-stress-management-and-health-benefits-of-laughter-3145084)
We live in a world that is crazy and for the most part doesn’t make a lot of sense at times. But that’s okay. As followers of Jesus we have a hope that is beyond our current circumstances and that is higher than the social ills of today. I am not telling you that we don’t need to take our problems and difficulties serious. I am, however, saying that we can find joy and laughter in the midst of our misfortunes and mishaps. You have to look for it.
I grew up in a pretty dysfunctional family. My siblings and I don’t look back with bitterness and regret. We look back and find the humor in it. We also look back with thankfulness—thankful that we survived our childhood and have become positive, contributing adults to our society… Well, somewhat. We have every reason to be angry, every reason to be bitter, yet we have chosen better over bitter. We have chosen laughter over lamenting. Why? Because our hope is outside of us. Our hope is bigger than us. Our hope is not founded on our happiness and well-being. Our hope is found in a deep and intimate relationship with God. We laugh because we can, because He has given us a reason to. I’m serious about laughter, which in itself is somewhat funny. I find at least 10-15 things a day to laugh at or about—at myself, with others, sometimes at others. I have a clean stand-up comedy app on my phone that I listen to every time I get the chance. I laugh a lot and am better for it. So, my advice to you (I give it even though you didn’t ask for it) is to get serious about laughter.