A sunny spirit
“Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritation and resentments slip away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.” — Mark Twain
Of all the things that have helped us survive the past thirty years, and even before that, I would have to say that humor is near the top of the list. I cannot count the times when a good laugh has lightened everything up for us. If someone asked me to name the trait I value most in both our sons, it might well be their robust sense of humor.
Years ago when the boys and I were visiting my parents, we decided to take the MARTA train into Atlanta for some reason or other. I have forgotten what we did in town that day; what I remember most is something memorable that happened on the way home.
It was right around rush hour in the afternoon, and our train was crowded. Somewhere between West End and College Park, after the train had gone above ground but was not near a station, it began to slow, grinding to a stop seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
For a couple of seconds a hush fell over our car, and then something wonderful happened. As if on cue, almost everyone in the car burst into laughter. It was so contagious, it was hard not to join in. As we sat there — I don’t remember how long, but it might have been ten or twenty minutes — there was a relaxed, almost party atmosphere as people engaged in lively speculation about what was going on, and how long it might be before it was fixed.
What surprised me most was the complete absence of any impatience, irritation or annoyance from anyone I heard. It was as if we were all caught as extras in some sitcom episode or comedy movie, enjoying it to the hilt. It was most unexpected, and makes me smile to this day when I think about it. The car eventually started up again, but the memory of that temporary stop lingers on.
I’ve wondered about it a good bit over the years. Why did these people react with such spirited humor? I tell myself that maybe it was something about the relaxed good will of Atlanta (I can’t imagine that happening on the New York subway) or the southern African-American culture (we were the only white people in our car) or maybe it was just the sunny weather of a beautiful day in a lovely city.
Whatever the reason, the experience left me indelibly impressed with the power of humor to turn bad situations into good ones. I hope you have had many such experiences, and will have many more. Feel free to share some of them in the comments!
One year ago today