I remember seventh grade very well. The entire year felt like a never-ending trip to an amusement park for awkward adolescence, with featured rides like the Emotional Tilt-A-Whirl, the Giant Hormonal Roller Coaster, and Bumper-Cars for Klutzes. By the time May rolled around, nobody felt like hitting the books, paying attention in class, or doing anything that required intellect. Like a bad ride, we just wanted it to end. Spring was in the air, hormones were raging, it was baseball season, and summer vacation was practically around the corner.
Two of my teachers knew what they were up against. They adopted a theme for the month, calling it, “A Joke a Day for the Month of May” It was brilliant. Before each class they told a corny joke. It was always clean and wholesome and it was always ridiculously silly. But it did the trick. It made us laugh inside, even if we were sometimes laughing at them. We would compare which teacher had the more ridiculous joke for the day. If you had one teacher in the morning and your friend had him in the afternoon, you had to keep silent during lunch about the morning joke—but you never could, which added to the fun.
It took the edge off of life and it got us through spring fever. It also helped us forget our awkwardness and to lighten up about life in general. Mr. O’Conner and Mr. Zajacs were excellent teachers in their subjects, but they were also excellent therapists to a generation of youth. They taught us that no matter what drama may be going on in our lives, wholesome laughter could help get us through it. It’s free and it’s abundant. They reminded us that it’s not only okay to laugh, it’s necessary.
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine,” (Proverbs 17:22)
“On average, children laugh 400 times a day, while adults laugh about 15 times. Why the gap? Did we lose something? Have we forgotten the way we used to be? Why is it that children seem to cope with life’s oddities better than adults? Perhaps it’s because they do not fully understand. But I think it’s simpler than that—they laugh.
As we grow older, we get far too serious. Watch children play. They don’t need expensive toys to entertain them. Everything is fun. They are spontaneous. Only when we become adults do we start to get boring. Do we need to cultivate a different attitude? Humor is in the way we see things, the way we think. It’s an attitude, not an event. Perhaps the key lies in becoming more childlike.” (Gary K. Palmer, The Power of Laughter, Ensign, Sept. 2007)
Think of the Home Front commercial (Mormon Ad) with the swashbuckling dad and his son. They fight off treacherous pirates and storm the castle to save the princess. When they reach her room and announce their heroic intent, we learn from the mom that the princess is the baby sister and she’s sleeping, so she’s not to be “disturbed.”
The father and son acquiesce to the mom, tip-toe out the door and tell the pirates that the princess is asleep. And then the game, and the commercial, comes to a sweet and humorous end. It’s a vivid example of how we can have fun with our families, find adventure in play. It also brought a smile to the face of everyone who’s seen it.
Humor has the ability to change our hearts for the better. It can brighten even the darkest of situations if we but look to find it. Humor can diffuse an uncomfortable moment. When an unkind remark sends the Spirit away, good-natured humor can soften the hearts of those around us and bring the Spirit back just as quickly as it left.
Humor can also help in dealing with sensitive issues. In the same article, Gary K. Palmer gave an example of how to approach sensitive subjects with humor. He stated,
“One year when Brigham Young University President Rex E. Lee was reviewing the BYU dress and grooming standards with the university community, he began by announcing that he wanted to show some examples of inappropriate dress and grooming standards on the huge screen in the Marriott Center. He caught us completely off guard. The slides were of him dressed in a variety of humorous, inappropriate outfits. He took a sensitive subject and presented it in a humorous way. We got the message. We never forgot it. You can do the same with your family.” (Ensign, Sept 2007)
So for the coming month of May, let’s try to see the humor in life. Let’s allow the beauty of the season to renew our spirit to be childlike in all things so that we may laugh more abundantly and smile more sincerely.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.