On the way home from listening to a Brazilian rhythmic feast at the Nashville Jazz workshop, my mother told me she was looking forward to listening to “Rock Obamo’s” speech tonight.
I hadn’t realized until that moment that she might not really know the president’s name, so I asked. What do you think the president’s name is?
She replied, “Is it Mrock Obamo?”
We both started to laugh, because she knew she was totally off base. I had tears in my eyes as I was trying to coach her to say Barack Obama, one syllable at a time. I heard versions like Bnock Allama, Brack Obana, Bnack Oshasha… And the story goes on.
By the time we got home, my eyes were filled with tears from laughing so hard. I’m sure she was just trying to make me laugh at the risk of making herself sound less educated, but our family knows how to laugh. And that we did.
When I was a child about eight years old, my mother had left my father hoping to get custody of all six children. At that time, my dad had way too many friends in high places, and she never saw us for six years. What happened was a very angry alcoholic father got total possession of six very frightened young hearts.
One night after we were to have cleaned up the kitchen according to my father’s strict standards, he took his arm like Jesus turning over tables in the Holy of Holies and broke every dish and glass in the house. When he was finished, he called everyone into the living room to a family meeting.
I remember sitting between two of my older brothers and sisters quivering. What would he do next? Who would comfort me after all this? He talked for an hour about respect and what he expected of all of us, but I don’t remember what he said. Just the anger.
The next night he was away. All of us kids and a few neighbors played a game we called “laugh time.” One person would get up and try to make the rest of the kids laugh. If you laughed, you would have to be the next to be the comedian.
We knew, even as children, that to get through the hardest times of our lives, we would need laughter and togetherness to forge ahead psychologically. Tonight, my mother reminded me of that gift I learned so long ago. Laughter is the best medicine.
I had a friend who fell off of a ladder and into his basement stairwell a year ago. He broke his leg backward and had to crawl in agonizing pain to get his cell phone to call for help. That night I went to visit him in the hospital after he had his surgery. The entire time all we did was laugh. He took what was most likely the most painful moment of his life and found something incredibly funny about it and focused on that. He had me in tears laughing. I’ll never forget his kind of courage and moxie.
Everything in life can be looked at from a different point of view. But you can’t be in your problem to see other points of view. You have to come outside yourself and be what I call the “omniscient observer.” When you learn this spiritual device, you can see from all sides. This gives us compassion, love and grace, even when we are the receivers of terrible acts.
You know I love you when I say this: If you want to heal, you have got to get outside of yourself and your situation and your issues long enough to observe your humanness (without condemnation) as you fit into the entire paradigm of life.
What can you learn? How can you become stronger? What is the next step forward, not backward? What did this situation do to make you a better person? Can what you learned help someone else in a similar situation?
These are the questions we should be asking ourselves, instead of basking in years of anger and hate and resentment, which only leads to sickness and death.
Learn to love the now, my friends. It’s all we have.
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