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If I manage To Laugh I Get Through The Bad Days

© Catherine Ripplinger Fenwick

Have you ever written something, made copies and distributed those copies, only then to discover an error? It happens to the best of us. Making an error isn't so bad. Sometimes we get a good laugh out of it. I have even found a few in church bulletins.

There will be a meeting at both the north and south ends of the church. Babies will be baptized at both ends.

This being Easter, we will ask Mrs. Smith to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.

And ladies of the church, don't forget the Rummage Sale. Bring all that stuff you have around the house you don't want any more. Bring your husbands!

I give seminars on using laughter to help people make positive changes, learn something new, or come to accept things that can't be changed. But there are risks in using comedy. It is the most challenging and risky type of presentation that I do. When I feel threatened or unsure of myself, I often revert to more serious discussions; then I have a sense of loss because I deny myself the chance to help someone to laugh. Using humour is like walking a tightrope.

Comedy creates great emotion because it often hits at the heart of the seriousness of life. Recently I met the man who received the 1994 MS National President's Award, given to a person who is living with Multiple Sclerosis and is making a significant contribution to their community. Ian Lowe is a 45 year old farmer who manages a large farm with the help of his family, is an active member of his community and finds time to help others. MS has left him blind and confined to a wheelchair.

Ian has been an inspiration to me and to everyone who knows him. He says that the support of family and friends helps him to get things done. "Humour is what really allows me to pass the time," he said. "There are days when I want to throw up my hands and say the hell with it. But if I manage to laugh, I get through those days."

Author Dennis Kaye in his book, Laugh! I thought I'd die, tells of his experiences living with a motor neuron disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

This inspiring autobiography alternately brought me to tears and had me howling with laughter. Here was an indomitable person who was truly living. He was rising above his pain and creating something worthwhile. His turn of phrase and healing humour portrayed incredible courage, tenacity and hope.

He wrote, "All things considered, when I put ALS up against the things in life that really count, it doesn't stand a chance."

When we goof-up, let's try and keep it in perspective. Kaye tells about the time he was getting ready for bed and he became all tangled up in his clothes, he fell to the floor just as his wife came into the bedroom. She flopped down on the floor beside him and they both laughed so hard, he "thought (he'd) die!"

Dennis Kaye and Ian Lowe are two obvious role models and they are the first to acknowledge the loving care and attention they receive from their families. Role models and heros are all around us, we need only to open our eyes to the strength and joy of the human spirit.

Humour is a potent way of communicating with others. If we can get people to laugh we can get them to take action. It is important to be serious about serious things; but not be serious about small stuff. What we need to remember is; don't sweat the small stuff, almost everything is small stuff, and the big stuff is so serious that we have to laugh in order to cope.

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