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THE POWER OF LAUGHTER

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By Bob Mueller

Someone has well said, “God must have had a good sense of humor, else God could not have made monkeys, pelicans and some of us.” Laughter gives us a wholesome attitude towards one another. When two people laugh together, there is a sense of belonging. Laughter carries with it sympathy for others; it tends to remove suspicion, doubts and antagonism. When we laugh together, we feel united, we are ready to forgive, and we begin to love. People cannot hate each other while they are laughing.

Bill Keane, syndicated cartoonist and creator of “Family Circus”, has written: “Humor can keep us healthy. It has kept all the Keane Family healthy for three decades. Laughter is the safety valve for the mind. There is no better way to keep emotionally stable than by laughing or creating laughs.” Laughter is not all “ho, ho, ho” and “ha, ha, ha.” It’s also a quiet inner warmth that spreads good vibes throughout the mind and body. There is no doubt in my mind that laughter of any kind promotes better health.

I have spoken with several professional clowns who have told me of their success stories with terribly despondent people. Laughter can help us over more difficult places than any other human expression.

One theory suggests that laughter stimulates the brain to manufacture catecholamines, hormones that release natural pain-relieving substances called endorphins. Other doctors have observed that laughing also is good exercise for the lungs, heart, diaphragm and stomach, and helps circulation by cleaning toxins from the respiratory system.

There is a story of Jimmy Durante, who many of us remember as a great American comic. He told of an experience when he was a boy. His mother bought him a Buster Brown suit with a large, flowing collar. On Sunday she made him wear it. He was very self-conscious and never wanted anyone to see him in that suit. If the other boys saw him, he would really be scorned. One day he caught sight of himself in a store window. As he looked at himself he began to laugh. As he was laughing along came the other boys. One asked, “What’s so funny?” He replied, “Look, a guy dressed like a sissy with a face like a horse.” Soon they were all laughing. Then it dawned upon Jimmy Durante that as long as he could make people laugh, they would be safe with each other. So he spent life making people laugh.

Jimmy Durante’s “schnozzolla,” his big, ugly nose, became his greatest asset. The truth is, we all have schnozzollas of some kind. I know, I have size thirteen feet.

In some way each of us is ridiculous, if not in our faces, then in our characters or minds or habits. Instead of being ashamed of our schnozzollas or our big feet, we need to begin to laugh.

There is a story of a woman who went in search of a flower called “hearts ease.” Upon every road she took, however, she found an obstacle blocking her progress. That obstacle was her friend’s burden. At last in desperation she decided to lift that unwelcome obstacle, because she could continue her search in no other way. Then to her utter amazement, she found the lovely flower of “hearts ease” blooming under the burden she lifted. If we lift someone’s burden, we will find blooming in our very path the lovely flower of a cheerful heart.

Laugh a lot. It’s contagious.

The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.