Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"H is for Humor: Grace Happening People Have a Sense of Humor

This is the sixth installment of a twelve-week summer series based on the anagram “GRACE HAPPENS,” each letter representing a quality that equips us to be “Grace Happening People.”

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not;
A sense of humor to console him for what he is.” Sir Francis Bacon

I am a constant source of laughs for my family. Gullible and naïve, I believe everything my husband and kids tell me. I’ve learned to watch the corners of my son’s mouth, which often clues me in that he’s pulling my leg, but even this is not fool proof. While frustrated when they have to explain yet another joke to me, they think it’s hilarious that I am so clueless. I am happy to be such a handy source of entertainment.

Fortunately, I’ve learned to laugh at myself—in most circumstances. I embrace the belief that people are laughing “with” me, not “at” me. This may be a form of denial, but it works for me! Max Eastman (American author and journalist, 1883-1969) wisely said, “It is the ability to take a joke, not make one, that proves you have a sense of humor.” Isn’t that the truth!

On a recent visit to ThinkExist.com an unidentified person is quoted as saying, “the most valuable sense of humor is the kind that enables a person to see instantly what it isn’t safe to laugh at.” On The HUMOR Project, Inc. website, Cliff Thomas wisely points out that, “When someone blushes with embarrassment… when someone carries away an ache… when something sacred is made to appear common… when someone’s weakness provides the laughter… when profanity is required to make it funny… when a little child is brought to tears… or when everyone can’t join in the laughter…IT’S A POOR JOKE!!” Humor is a double-edged sword—and there is a very fine line between friendly “cutting up” and painful “cutting down.” Grace Happening People learn to discern the difference.

On a more positive note, “A keen sense of humor helps us to overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected, and outlast the unbearable.” (Billy Graham) Laughing Matters magazine, a publication of The HUMOR Project, Inc., highlights these benefits of humor:

“Jest for the health of it” to improve respiration, circulation, and oxygenation of the blood, to suppress stress-related hormones in the brain, and to activate the immune system.

Use humor to prevent “hardening of the attitudes.”

The HAHA-AHA connection: humor is a jump-start for creativity, enhancing the ability to think outside the box.

The laughing-learning link: humor is a great way to capture and maintain attention, while freeing up tension, and leading to improved retention of information.

Resilience Quotient: “S/He who laughs lasts.” Humor helps build resilience so we can get better “smileage” on life’s journey.

But what about those times when we find it impossible to find the humor in life’s conflicts and crises? Years ago, a young woman from my church was awaiting a liver transplant. During the long wait, her mom, Paula May, devised a creative way to cope with the stress by inviting friends and hospital staffers to guess the day on which Lynsie would receive her new liver. It cost a dollar to enter the pool and guesses were recorded on a big calendar. Granted, the humor bordered on the macabre, but appropriately so, during a time when we all felt so helpless and were fending off hopelessness with furtive prayers and gifts of food (what else could we offer at such a time?). I guessed April 23rd, my Mom’s birthday, and I won! Lynsie, hanging on by a hair’s breath, received a new liver—from a young man who, sadly, lost his lifes. Joy and sorrow go hand in hand, never straying too far from one another.

Paula is a Grace Happening person, if there ever was one. The pool was a prayer from all of our hearts, buoyed up by the Holy Spirit, via Paula’s humor.

"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy." Job 8:21

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