Laughter, Medicine for the Heart

12 12 2011

“You grow up the day you have your first real laugh—at yourself!”

I think anyone who really knows me, knows that I enjoy making people laugh, hence some of the pics I’ve posted.  But if someone had said those words to me some 40 plus years ago, there’s a chance I might have countered with, “You wouldn’t say that if you knew what I’ve had to go through all my life.”  Now I’m not saying I had a bad attitude and couldn’t get along with others.  To the contrary, I’ve enjoyed being with people and having friends. But if someone teased or laughed at me in a way I didn’t like, or said something about me that was derogatory, they instantly became people that were nothing more than purely mean natured on my list.  That all stemmed from early years of lack of self confidence.  As stated in previous stories, I did not learn to read until later in life.  To be called on as a child to answer a question or read out loud was pure torture.  On more than one occasion, my response (or lack of) in class to the teacher’s inquiry would bring thunderous roars of laughter that caused me great embarrassment.  Most often it continued when I went out for recess or after school, and yes, quite regularly that would lead to a fight.  But also I have related to you good people that with the help of a Saint of a woman I overcame illiteracy which was an incredible boost toward self-belief.  But still when it came to teasing, laughing at me and such, the damage was done.  It was hard for me to take even “no harm intended, just kidding with you” remarks.  I may not say anything or even kid back some, but inside I was deeply hurt.  It truly bothered me and I wondered at times if I could ever get past this dark spot in my life and then along came Everett.

Back in the 70s I ventured down to Southern Florida to check out a college that had caught mine and my Lady’s eye.  For a reasonable price you could come there in the summer for a week and look around, talk to teachers, see the school, and sit in class type discussions to get a feel for the school.  It also came with room and meals which made for a nice sunny vacation by the ocean.  Everyday we would head into the cafeteria for our three meals that were prepared at designated times.  On the first day as we walked down the hall with everyone else, I could hear someone farther up standing by the entrance to the dining hall.  As each person entered, he would stand there and say, “Hi!” or “Hello!”  But it wouldn’t be just a nice greeting; this man would make different faces and use several voices as he addressed each and every person.  Many would laugh and even greet him back in the same way.  There were a few that had comments about whether he was playing with a full deck.  No matter what was the reaction this chap, Everett, would not be deterred from delivering his light-hearted salutation every day and at every meal.

One evening I was invited my a fellow who was a student there at the college to come up to his room and listen to a special speaker along with about 6 others.  “John, this guy has made quite a difference in my outlook on people and myself, I think you’ll enjoy him.”  Wanna guess who the speaker was?  You got it!  Imagine the look on all our faces when Everett, the lunchroom greeter came in the room.  I thought to myself, “This should be interesting.”  It wasn’t, it was awesome! Everett had been born without a pallet, or roof of the mouth.  He could not form words like other people and had to have many operations to correct the problem.  Multiple layers of skin were grafted from different areas of his body into the top of his mouth.  Over time this corrected the problem, but brought on a new one.  Where they had taken the skin layers from his body and placed in his mouth where regions that grew hair, like his arms and legs. Until that problem was alleviated he constantly had to pull this unwanted fur from his mouth.  To cut to the chase, the teasing and being laughed at that I met up with as a child was nothing compared to what Everett had to endure every day of his life.  He told a story of how he came to the point that he didn’t want to be around anyone.  If he could spend his life in solitude, Everett was sure that would take care of all the hurt and pain.  There was one person Everett didn’t feel this way about, an old retired priest who lived just a few doors down from him in New Jersey.  Often his mother would send him to check on this elderly man to make sure he was okay or to see if he needed anything.  Everett got to the point where he would stay a while and talk.  He felt he could be himself around the priest and they enjoyed many hours of conversation together.  One of Everett’s favorite things to do was to try and make his friend laugh by his actions and words.  And laugh he did, sometimes uncontrollably.  It was during one of the visit that Everett confided in him his desire to be alone because of all the things he had gone through.  “Everett, do you really believe God has brought you this far and gifted you so highly just for you to hide it away for the rest of your life?”  “Gift?  What Gift?”  Everett demanded.  “Why you have the gift of making people happy, of making them smile, making them laugh, and that in itself is more valuable than gold.”  That moment changed Everett forever.  He became known for his outgoing ways and making people feel good by his very presence.  Even ones who had been mean to him in the past, he went out of his way to try and bring a smile to their faces.  Everett told us that night, “The doctors healed his physical afflictions.  God healed his emotional ones with laughter and forgiveness.”

Someone said, “When we begin to take our failures and shortcoming non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them.  It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves!”

A lunchroom greeter taught me that a healthy heart is a forgiving heart filled with joy and laughter.  May the heart God gave you grow stronger in those aspects today.  By the way, that’s what the picture is for–just to give you a little jump start!  ;o)




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