Laugh, for Goodness’ Sake

It is more contagious than the Coronavirus

By Michael M. Barrick

I miss laughter.

Not the kind of laughter that late-night comedians get by ridiculing others, even if I don’t like the others.

No, the kind of laughter I miss is spontaneous; it is genuine and comes from joy, not just happiness. Those of you who know our daughter Lindsay know the kind of laughter to which I’m referring. We have not seen her lately even though she lives close by because we are trying to keep each other healthy. So yesterday, as I eavesdropped on a call between her and her mom, I heard that laugh again. It was so precious to hear. When she laughs, she brightens a room. In fact, her laugh is contagious — more contagious than even the Coronavirus.

Her mom doesn’t just laugh. She loses it. So, for anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours, if whatever made her laugh crosses her mind, she’s of no value to anyone — beyond the entertainment she provides.

Our son, the stoic, laughs as well. Not as often. But when he does, it fills the house.

My sister, my nieces and nephews, our granddaughter, all have wonderful laughs. When we were all last together — at Thanksgiving — the dominant memory I have is of laughter.

The giggles and squeals of the toddlers of our friends Anna and Andrew melt your cares away. And, you find yourself smiling for ear to ear because of their antics and vivid imaginations. Yes, Henry, there are dinosaurs in your backyard and I see them too!

When we gather in Charlotte with Sarah’s gang, laughter crosses the generations. It has since I first met Sarah’s grandmother in 1978. She had me laughing then and more than 20 years later as she made fun of the gap in my teeth while she was 101-years-old. Her look, her feigned hearing loss, her escapades with chewing gum and dentures, and her response to a nursing home friend who hadn’t seen her in a while were classics. Sarah’s grandmother had been out recovering from surgery for a few weeks and was still a bit hazy from the anesthesia. As we wheeled her past the dining room table where she normally sat, she snapped out of it and demanded of her friend an explanation for why she was sitting in her chair. “We thought you were dead, Emma,” she responded. “Well, as you can clearly see. I’m not. Now get out of my chair!” Emma responded. We and the children laughed — later, on the way home. But it still generates smiles today. So making laughter memories is good for the moment and down the road.

The laugh I miss the most is that of my mom’s. We have photos spread around the house of her and dad; in virtually all of them, her head is tilted back, her mouth wide open in laughter. I look forward to again hearing the laughter of her best friend, Anita. They met in the 6th grade. When Lindsay and I last visited Anita and her husband Dale last summer, a one-hour visit turned into a 10-hour stay. While Dale and I lied to each other downstairs over beers, the “girls” never stopped laughing. What a day!

Right now, mom would find a reason to laugh. Of course the pandemic is no laughing matter. However, we do have other things going on in our lives. We are able to see some people. But, if you’re isolated, and struggling to laugh, that’s understandable. Hell, shedding a few tears is natural. We have much to grieve; we also have much for which to be thankful. In fact, mom wouldn’t just laugh. She’d dance. On top of the nearest table.

If all goes as I hope, I’ll turn 64 on April 22. At no point in my life have I seen our nation on its knees as it is now. But it has been on the ropes before. Earlier this week, while doing some reading, I was captivated by a young soldier’s account of World War II. A POW, the conditions he described — both in battle and in German prison camps — make our current crisis seem like a walk in the park. Ray Miller recalled, “When I see someone throwing away or otherwise wasting food, I can’t help thinking how many prisoners that food would have fed. When it is cold and rainy, or snow and ice outside, I always remember those times in combat and prison camp, and I say a little prayer, ‘God, thank you for a warm place to sleep and plenty to eat.’” Miller, of Hickory, N.C., died in 1999 at age 75.

Yes, many we know and love will become sick; some will die. Yet, we are not under assault by Nazis (well, at least in the context of the pandemic, but I digress) and we are not prisoners of war. We are sheltering-in-place as wise people should.

So, find a reason to laugh. And turn off the damn TV. They get paid to scare you while they sell cars. Do not let them have control of your mind anymore. Stay informed and do as instructed. Then, at the other end — and there will be another end — let’s take the lessons from this real Lenten season, and among other things, cheer up and laugh. Your neighbors are not your enemies, no matter who they voted for or where they go — or don’t go — to church. They are people like you — scared, sad, and simply hoping for a return to their routines.

Speaking of church, a bit of insight from the Bible seems timely as we end the liturgical Lenten season next week. “Consider it all joy, my friends, when you encounter various trials, for you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2,3). That’s good counsel. Our pandemic Lent will last much longer than the liturgical one.

Accept it. Sometimes, life is out of our hands. Hell, usually it is. But we still must persevere. So, we must laugh! That’s a contagion that will help us through, and ultimately outlast, the Coronavirus pandemic. So, laugh for goodness’ sake!

© Michael M. Barrick, 2020. Girl laughing photo by Lisa Wal on Unsplash. TV photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash. Boy on bench photo by Ben White on Unsplash. Girl in pink photo by Jeremiah Lawrence on Unsplash