I once read a story, purported to be true, of a motorist who was caught in an automated speed trap. His speed was measured by a radar machine and his car was automatically photographed. In a few days he received a ticket for $40 in the mail along with a picture of his automobile. As payment, he sent the police department a snapshot of $40. Several days later, he received a letter from the police. It contained another picture — of handcuffs. He promptly paid the fine.
Who hasn’t received a traffic violation? There are many ways to respond to those inevitable irritations of life, and one of the best is to find some humor. (Though he’s probably fortunate the police had a sense of humor, too.)
This is one of Bill Cosby’s strategies for successful living. The octogenarian comedian has known hard times, yet he once summarized his attitude this way: “You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything… you can survive it.” Like aging. He says that all things shift when we age. Even the mind. It slips from the head to the behind. There’s proof of this, he tells us. When you walk into a room to get something or to do something, you forget what you went after. You see, your mind has left. “But then you sit down and – bingo! – you remember what it was you wanted. Therefore, your mind must have slipped down to your behind.”
Growing older is a wonderful thing, especially if you’re young. But what if most of your years are behind you? There are some things, like growing older, that can’t be changed. And one of the best ways to respond to things that can’t be changed is to find some humor.
Then there’s Katie. Katie was a young woman with a great, big problem. She was a teenager dying of leukemia. Katie’s mother wrote to me and told me how her daughter approached her disease. She told about a time, shortly after a bone marrow transplant, when Katie’s head was “slickly bald,” as she put it. One day Katie heard the doctor coming on rounds and ducked into the bathroom. Her mother heard her giggling and asked, “Katie, what is so funny?”
She put her finger to her lips, pulled a Nike ski cap onto her head and crawled into bed.
When the doctor came in, she said, “Well, Miss Katie! How are you feeling today?”
Katie frowned and said, “I am OK, I guess… but I just have this splitting headache.” She pulled off her ski cap and there on her bald head was a huge red crack, which she had drawn with a marker. As the doctor recovered from her initial shock, the room exploded in laughter.
Katie did not survive the cancer, but she conquered depression and despair and found an authentic way to live as fully as possible her last months of life.
There are many ways to respond when life takes a serious turn, but even then, perhaps especially then, one of the best is to find some humor. “It DOES help!” Katie’s mother asserted at the end of her letter.
Mark Twain says that the human race “has unquestionably one really effective weapon – laughter.” Laughing at the twists and turns of life may not be your first response, but it can be one of the best.