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Mary Ellen Edmunds

November 02, 2012

I love to laugh. I’m borrowing that line from Ed Wynn and Dick Van Dyke (Uncle Albert and Bert) in “Mary Poppins.” I can hear their laughter right this minute in my mind, and it makes me smile out loud.

Laughter feels like a bridge, or glue, or an oasis, or magic. It can break down walls, melt hearts, turn a frowny face upside down, and create happiness. It really IS “the best medicine.” And it’s free!

The kind of laughter I’m talking about is when something is genuinely funny, and people laugh together in a way that doesn’t hurt anybody and isn’t “loud laughter.” I think the distinction is not about volume (or noise level), but about quality. It’s the difference in why you’re laughing, and what you’re laughing at. It’s a difference you can feel.

President Hinckley used to make us laugh hard and happily. One experience happened in the Tabernacle in the early 90’s (1990’s, not 1890’s, OK?).  It was a Sunday morning and it was very, very WARM in the Tabernacle.  Most of us were fanning ourselves with the programs which had been handed out before the Tabernacle Choir broadcast right before the Sunday morning session of General Conference.

President Hinckley was conducting, and at some point he said something like, “We know it’s very warm in here, and that most of you are hot.” He had that twinkle in his eye that let you know something funny was on its way.  “But you’re not as hot as you’re going to be if you don’t repent!”

I don’t remember if those were his exact words, but the place erupted in happy laughter, and it felt and sounded so good!  Good humor is such a gift.

Some things aren’t funny at all. I know that. But there are times when laughter can be therapeutic, when it can make “all the difference.” As we learn from Ecclesiastes 3:4, there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”

I learned this as a nurse. There were many times to weep, but there were also times to laugh. I found that humor and laughter often have a place in the healing process. (And, in keeping with nursing terms, laughter is infectious! … contagious!).

Studies have shown (picture someone in a white lab coat saying this) that laughter has many health benefits – it actually causes physical changes in the body. Among these benefits are an increase in energy and a decrease in pain and the harmful effects of stress. And of course there are all those endorphins.

Sharing laughter with others increases happiness and closeness. It can “break the ice” and strengthen relationships. Laughing with others is more powerful than laughing alone.

Can you think of a time recently when you laughed “until you cried” with someone, and it felt so good?  Maybe you shared a funny cartoon or story or joke or personal experience.

In our family there are funny things which we can recall by saying just one word or phrase, and we all laugh.
“It’s either a skunk or a weasel!”
“Now I don’t know any of the details.”
“That’s my specialty.”

Right now I’m laughing by myself – computers don’t have that capacity.

I miss the fun I used to have with my parents, and the laughter we shared. Not long after my father passed away, I had to fly somewhere to give a talk. One of my younger sisters gave me a small box to take with me, asking me to be sure to bring it back to her. Inside she had put some of her favorite cartoons – a sweet way to cheer me up when it was mostly a time to weep.

One thing I love about TOFW is the chance to weep and laugh with all of the wonderful presenters, and with all of you whom I’ve met during the years. Thank you! I hope we can laugh in Heaven. If not, I’m in big trouble!

I hope today you’ll find time to laugh, and to share it with someone else.