LAUGHING IN YOUR
by Todd Goodwin
It was a normal day—normal weather, normal routine—just a plain ole boring, mundane, and normal day… Or so I thought it would be. I was sitting at my desk, doing my normal work, when I received what I thought would be a normal phone call from a normal friend (well, maybe not so normal friend). But it wasn’t normal in the least bit.
My friend had a shakiness to his voice as he asked, “Heeey, man. You got, got… got some time to… to t-t-t-talk?”
I said, “Yeah, come over to the office whenever you can.”
Within a few minutes, he walked through the door and sat down in my “counseling” chair that was adjacent to my desk chair. He then proceeded to tell me a story about his life that—let me put it this way—was the stuff that you would only see in the movies. As he continued, I wrestled with urges to gasp in horror and fought back giggles and laughter all at the same time.
In my “counseling” course early in my ministerial training, I was taught that you never show emotion in counseling no matter what the “counselee” says. Keep a stone-cold face. Up to this point in my life that advice and training had served me well until that fateful “normal” day.
My friend continued with his tale of craziness, and I just sat there staring at him in disbelief that any of what he was saying was true. But, I knew he wasn’t making it up because it was too crazy not to be true. Nobody in their right mind would make this stuff up unless they were writing a script for Hollywood. He finished his tale of incredulous events, and I just sat there with nothing to say. If you know me well, you know I am not one that goes without anything to say, but that day I did. We sat across from each other for a few more seconds, looking at each other without a word from either, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I finally blurted out… with laughter. I began laughing right in his face.
What was wrong with me? Had I finally snapped and all the “confessions” of all the years of counseling had gotten the best of me? What was going on? I couldn’t help myself. I tried to stop laughing but I couldn’t seem to get a grip on my emotions.
"Maybe you're the one who needs counseling."
My friend looked at me in disbelief for just a few seconds until he burst out in laughter as well. We both were laughing so hard that we had tears coming down our cheeks. My tears came from the fact that I found his story so overwhelming and incredibly outlandish that it was funny. I think his were from both, partly because the events that had recently transpired in his life were beyond belief and the other part was… What else could he do but laugh at the situation?
Finally, the laughter died down and once again we sat there looking at each other. I thought I had broken the golden rule of counseling: never let them see you sweat. Wait, that’s another profession. Either way, we both just had a bout of laughter that we would never forget. His story was so absurd and inconceivable that I didn’t know what else to do. We finally started talking about his situation and made it through to a point where he could deal with it and begin to sort things out.
He left, and I leaned back in my chair and thought to myself, “You idiot. You don’t laugh in people’s face when they are pouring their heart out to you. You know better than that. Maybe you’re the one who needs to get counseling.”
It was a day or so later when my friend called me back. I didn’t know what he was going to say. I figured he was going to reprimand me for my insensitivity and unprofessional behavior. But, to my surprise, he did
the complete opposite. He said that me laughing was the catalyst for him being able to wrap his mind around the whole insane situation. He also said that him laughing at the unbelievable news he had received helped start the healing process.
After thirty something years of counseling people, I learned a great lesson that day. I thought that “normal” day I was going to help my friend through his grief, sorrow, pain, or whatever he was going through, but in actuality I was the one who received help. It was on that normal day with the bout of laughter that my eyes were opened to its healing properties, and it helped me see the world completely differently.
Laugh a little. No, don’t. Laugh a lot. Find something to laugh about today. Never let a day go by that you don’t laugh.