“We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’ Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest” (Psalm 126:2-6).
Under the backyard birch tree, I leaned against his shoulder for support because I was laughing so hard I could not sit up straight. I was seventeen. Over the next several years I realized this man was kind, compassionate, hard-working, and a lover of Jesus, and the way he made me laugh had a way of dispelling my worries and sorrows. I thought he was hysterical, so I married him.
Humor has been a mainstay of our marriage through both joy and sorrow. We look for the funny, ironic, and witty to plug the holes of our ship when it’s taking on water. When our daughter was born three months early, we shed tears for months. We also laughed so hard that the nurse declared, “No one in the NICU unit has ever laughed like you two. You have entirely too much fun.” In her surprise, she recognized that our laughter had restoring, strengthening, and encouraging superpowers. It also made other people wonder about the faith we declared.
With appropriate kindness and timing, laughter is a healing balm in every generation. We can’t skirt grief. Even Jesus wept (John 11:35). We must walk through the valley of the shadow of death at certain points in life, but when the deepest sting of sorrow ebbs, laughter and fun are weapons to fight back. “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). While joy is a deep trusting in Jesus, not earthly happiness, fun and laughter are often its byproducts. This deep joy that flourishes when we trust God allows us to declare with King David, “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13-14). When we focus on the lighter side of life, we are declaring that God is good, and we trust that he will turn our weeping into joy. There are unique ways to chase away sorrow by intentionally seeking out fun with different generations of people.
Do you want to chase away the blues? Play with a baby! When I am sad, I walk to our neighbor’s house and play with their darling. His eyes and arms open wide when he sees me. Social games like peek-a-boo, tickling, hugging playoffs, and silly facial expressions promote laughter and enhance bonding between babies and adults. When babies are bonded, they feel safe and their trust is built. If you are bonded with a baby, he will offer all-engulfing hugs. It’s hard to be sad when babies are cuddly and giggly.
Friends from Missouri visited and told us they had seen a tornado in a field as they traveled. “We thought we might get caught in the eye of it,” my friend explained.
My two-year-old, Chelsey, had never heard of tornadoes. “You saw a tomato in a field?” she asked.
My friend’s five-year-old son, David, corrected. “Not a tomato! A tornado!”
“Oh,” Chelsey said. She was quiet for a minute, pondering while we continued to chat. “Do tomatoes have eyes like potatoes do?” I could tell she was wondering how you could get caught in the eye of a tomato!
“Not a tomato!” David said with a stamp of his foot. “A tornado.” He then explained what a tornado was while Chelsey nodded in apparent understanding.
Several months later, though, when we visited these friends in Missouri, Chelsey climbed onto a stool to watch dinner being made. “I see you use tornadoes in your salad too,” she said.
Toddlers using new vocabulary words are hilarious! Listening to their conversations with each other is even funnier. Mimicking, language play, silly songs, chasing games, hide and seek, and playground fun all foster a spirit of cooperation, teamwork, collaboration, and imagination in toddlers. They also get adults moving and laughing.
My three-year-old daughter decided telling jokes was a fun way to get people to laugh. The problem was, she didn’t understand jokes. Her funniest “joke” was in a grocery store. She pointed to a stranger and in a loud voice asked me, “Mama, is that my daddy?” The man looked startled. I was embarrassed, and my daughter was convinced she was the world’s best comedian. And, maybe she was because to break the tension, we all laughed.
Preschoolers begin to use fun and laughter as tools for self-expression, problem-solving, and creativity. They have loads of funny questions, and if we are willing to listen, they will tell you hilarious stories about their perspective on life. Playing games with preschoolers offers more than fun. Games teach leadership skills, cooperation and teamwork. If you want to sideline your sorrows, hang out with a preschooler.
As a teacher, turning learning into fun was my special challenge. Projects inspired creativity and critical thinking. Learning games not only aid in memory enhancement but also foster more important skills like team collaboration and problem-solving. When education is fun, it inspires children to love learning throughout their lifetime, and it makes the teacher’s day fun, too! Sometimes on these days, I needed an extra hand, so I had a few retired friends who would volunteer in my classroom. The students welcomed these adopted grandparents, and the retired friends felt cared for and had fun.
TEENS AND YOUNG ADULT CHILDREN
One of the best things a parent can do with their teens and adult children is to have fun with them. These years can be a time of family amusement while tightening bonding with a lifetime grip. Take some risks with your grown kids. Whitewater raft, zip line, or ATV through a national park. When we participate with our older children in activities that they enjoy, we ward off the likelihood of deep rebellion. Participating in games, thrills, laughter, and adventures with an attitude of mutual admiration and respect make these wonderful years with our kids despite the growing independence tensions!
Fun and laughter are stress reducers, mood boosters, depression fighters and connectors for adults. In our middle-aged years, my husband and I have both had major health issues. Another couple who we are close to have also had devastating health news. The four of us make it a point to have fun together and live in the day we are given. We go miniature golfing, get pedicures, try new restaurants, or see movies together. In the simple fun, we find pockets of happiness and shared community that makes living life enjoyable even when it is hard.
Laughter can also disrupt disagreements. My husband successfully defuses arguments by making me laugh. Before long, we are both relaxed and coping better with whatever the circumstance was that caused irritation.
My father-in-law was telling a story at our dinner table. He had Alzheimer’s and was struggling to remember the details of his story.
“I used to ride a motorcycle with a girlfriend when I was a teenager,” he said. “I can’t remember the name of that girlfriend.”
My mother-in-law smacked him on the arm. “That was me, Carlton,” she said. She was laughing as she spoke, and he laughed, too. Before long, all of us were laughing. My in-laws had broken the awkward tension and lightened the sorrow even though the sadness of the disease lingered.
Fun, games, exercise, and laughter not only make life more pleasant in our elderly years, but they also improve cognitive strength, memory, and physical endurance because they keep us engaged socially, mentally, and physically. A good hearty laugh is as good as low-impact-cardio exercise. Warm feelings are generated and isolation is prevented. When we enjoy the moment we are in, we worry and sorrow less.
UNIVERSAL TO ALL AGES
Fun and laughter benefits all ages. They release endorphins that help us relax, boost our mood, and fence off negative thoughts and emotions with boundaries. Bouncing back from stress is quicker and fear is warded off. Seeing the lighter side of life helps us cope, encourages us to live in the moment, distracts us from our problems, builds resilience against life’s deepest sorrows, and helps us shift perspective.
Laughing at our situation can be a great benefit. When I was undergoing chemotherapy, funny things happened. I chose to laugh at them. One time while cooking lunch for my four-year-old niece and two-year-old nephew, I forgot to take off my synthetic wig. The bangs of my wig melted! My daughters yelled at me, “Mom! Your wig is melting!” I whipped the wig off my bald head. The problem was, my niece and nephew didn’t know I wore a wig. When they saw my hairless head, they had the most shocked expressions I have ever seen. My daughters and I laughed until we cried, so my niece and nephew laughed with us. Even funnier was the fact that my nephew kept his hand on his head the rest of the day, presumably so his hair wouldn’t fall off! The humor in the situation lessened the anxiety and sorrows.
If laughter doesn’t come naturally to you, try these methods:
- Hang out with funny people, and participate in activities you enjoy that make you feel relaxed and comfortable.
- Children are joy bubbles! Listen to their conversations. Ask them questions. Watch their expressions when they try new things.
- Volunteer at a place that is fun!
- Tell funny stories. Others will tell their funny stories if you do it first.
- Don’t worry about what other people think. Be silly! Laugh at yourself.
- Learn what makes other people laugh. When you make them laugh, you will likely laugh, too.
- Watch comedies and old-fashioned sitcoms.
- Play group games.
- Don’t dwell on the negative. Be thankful.
- Listen for puns and play on words.
- See the quirky side. Look for the funny, silly, goofy and weird. Be eccentric. Let out your inner child.
- Remember to smile.
King Solomon is the presumed author of the book of Ecclesiastes. He was the richest, wisest man on the earth at the time he wrote this book. He was also in a depression so deep that all of life seemed meaningless to him. In the end he concluded, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I conclude there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God” (Ecclesiastes 3: 11-13).
Go ahead! Have some fun with someone from another generation. It will lessen the weight of your sorrows, connect you, help you learn new things, and remind you of our eternal hope.