“What kind of tree can you fit into your hand?”   —- “a palm tree.”

Each morning our daughter’s elementary school principal shares a taped video message.  She concludes it with a joke submitted by a student – similar to the one above. This ritual is a new one, as  previously the morning announcements in school did not include any joke telling.

While not privy to the reason behind this addition. My assumption is that the principal as well as the teachers who do the same, do so to bring a smile or laugh to the students during a time that is confusing, difficult, perhaps even scary.

The relationship between comedy and tragedy has been well documented.  In ancient Greek theatre, there are two masks.  One, Thalia, representing comedy and the other Melpomene, representing tragedy. The intent was to telegraph on stage the two extremes of human emotion.

Later, talk show host Steve Allen first defined comedy as “tragedy plus time.”  The comedian Carol Burnett created a much more direct connection when she said that she received her sense of humor from her mother, saying, “I’d tell her my tragedies and she would make me laugh.”

Like many, I have had many serious, difficult, even tragic conversations with loved ones over the last several weeks. But even within the most dire ones, we have found a way to share a laugh.

During the many struggles of my youth, I turned to humor to mask pain, act as a reliable defense mechanism and when possible, to bring light to others during a dark time.

As I grew older, I have grown more serious – much to my dismay and to the detriment of those around me.  Still when tragedy strikes, I turn back to my 12 year old self, trying to reach into my bag of old tricks and strike some kind of balance between acknowledging the depth of pain while finding some momentary light. While there have been fails that missed the mark, the risk to turn to humor has been worth it most of the time. 

The benefits of laughter are not just psychological, but physical.  It stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles. It releases relaxing endorphins, reduces feelings of pain and can even boost your immune system. Laughing can lessen depression and anxiety. One study found the positive effects of a good hearty laugh can reduce stress for more than 45 minutes. 

There is nothing funny about the pain people are experiencing today, but it doesn’t diminish their need for joy, humor, and laughter.  In fact the times when it is most hard to come by may be when we need it most.

I encourage you to reach out and share a laugh today with someone who you think could use one. You can share a funny story, relive one from your shared past, send a link from a funny skit, watch a funny movie, or even tell a corny joke. If you’re in need of one, here is one more:

“What sound does a nut make when it sneezes?   —  CA-SHEW!

God bless you and be well.

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