A sunny spirit (2017)

Matt and Drew in 1986, laughing together as they still do so often.

Matt and Drew in 1986, laughing together as they still do so often.

“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

Dear friends, I thank you for your patience and your kind comments– which I look forward to answering as soon as I can catch my breath and a few spare moments. I wish I had some good news for you, but still no daylight in the ongoing, all-consuming effort to keep Matt’s programs and services in place. I don’t know about you, but I could use a laugh. So I went searching for old posts about humor to re-post for tomorrow (it’s too late to even think about trying to write a post tonight). When I read this post from January 2014, I smiled as I remembered that long ago day on the MARTA train. I hope you, too, will think of funny memories to brighten your day. Laughter really is the best medicine.

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

God’s medicine


  1. Ann

    Dear Julia, how I wish I could help you with your bureaucratic hurdles! I’m sure you know to always try to speak with the highest ranking person in the department you are dealing with. This may seem trite but calling your congressman for help actually works, always identify yourself as a constituent.And of course we have the example of the persistent widow in the Gospels. Be strong.

    • Ann, I am happy to say that I am a big proponent of calling one’s congressional representatives, and have done so many times, including now. Redistricting took away my wonderful Congressman of many years, so this time it was a brand-new elected official who doesn’t know me as the former one did. His staff could not get anywhere, and I think it is partly because, being new, they don’t know who to call and don’t have much clout (my former Congressman never once failed to get quick results for me). But despite the efforts of many people with a ton of expertise among them, this particular problem is not yielding. I’m looking for other doors or windows to open. There is probably no Bible character with whom I identify more closely than the persistent widow. I’ve been playing that role for 32 years where Matt is concerned, and though I sometimes grow weary and take a seat, I always end up getting up again and knocking until my knuckles are raw. It helps me to read your encouragement to be strong!

  2. Hanging in there with you. Sending love and hugs.

    • Thank you Marlene! Sending hugs and love to you too!

  3. MaryAnn

    What a delicious photo! I love “my” Denton boys. They have shared many happy moments & glorious laughter with me. I love your train story. Currently, we are having an ongoing laugh-fest it seems. At the weekly small group Bible study in our home, people have become good friends. We share the prayers & praise of our week. Our wonderful leader loves the Bible & shares his vast knowledge with us. He & Paul have similar quick wits. We are always in for a treat when they start the ball rolling that ends in big LAUGHS from all.
    Thank you for bringing laughter to the forefront! Much love & continued prayers.

    • Mary Ann, I continue to consciously seek out laughter when I am feeling most desperate. I can always count on Dave Barry to make me laugh, no matter what else is going on. Even though he doesn’t publish a column regularly, his blog is always there and is hilarious. Please keep those prayers coming!

  4. Julia, A blessed Easter to you and your wonderful family.

    • Thank you, Alan. I hope your Easter was bright and beautiful!

  5. As is always the way when put on the spot, my mind is a total blank… I cannot think of a single amusing anecdote to share with you and make you smile. I know that when my brother-in-law died we spent a lot of time laughing over our funny memories of him… and when we discovered things about him we didn’t know… for example that he had never (as far as we could tell) thrown away a single expired credit card: we found dozens of them as we went through all his paperwork. Even months later, my sister would occasionally phone me up to announce that she had found a few more in a previously unopened box or drawer. We never worked out why, but now I always think of him when I’m destroying an expired card!

    • Hey, I feel much better about myself after reading this…that’s one thing I never had any trouble throwing away! I did cut them up carefully, of course. Maybe your brother-in-law didn’t want anyone getting his financial info and just felt safer stashing them. I can imagine that you would think of him each time you destroy another card. In fact, I might even think of him next time I am cutting one up! BTW I can’t yet bear to cut up Jeff’s cards and throw them away. I’ll give myself time on that.

  6. LOL
    My son, Erik, also had red footie pajamas in 1986! 😀
    Erik would have been right there, laughing along, in his red footie pajamas, had he been there too. And so would I! I’m even smiling now, just imagining the scene!

    • I totally LOVE footie pajamas, and always did. One of my favorite things about babies and toddlers and little kids is how cute they look in those footie pajamas! They are merry indeed, especially if they are RED!

  7. Lydia

    Two things I hope my children remember when I am gone: my faith and my laughter. They tell me that I make comedians out of everyone. If I don’t laugh, there is disappointment and joking around. “Not even a chuckle from Mom!” is a way of gauging their stories. I love a good story, a joke, a funny remark. Laughter is the best medicine, indeed. Have you ever watched the cartoon “Leopold” with Bugs Bunny? When I laugh, my nephew starts raising his hand just like in Leopold. That, of course, makes me laugh more. Now my 2-year old granddaughter smacks the table with his little hand, just as I do when I am roaring with laughter.

    • Lydia, I love this comment! As this post will attest, I am a huge fan of Bugs Bunny. But oddly, I don’t think I had ever seen Leopold until I read your comment — then of course, with the wonders of Google, I found the cartoon instantly online and watched it. What a hoot! He really brought down the house with that one…literally! When he sauntered off to mail a letter, I thought “he reminds me of the people who are working behind the counter at the post office when the line is REALLY long!” You are giving your family a precious gift if they use your laughter– or the lack of it– as a gauge for whether or not there is any humor to be found. Faith and laughter are a worthy legacy for which to strive!

  8. Sheila

    Julia, sounds like on the MARTA train everyone had a “WE’RE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT” moment! That is priceless, love it! I certainly noticed the bond that Drew and Matt have at Jeff’s service. I can’t put into words the love, awesome love that both Of your sons conveyed about their Dad, at the reception afterwards. It was so touching! ❤️ I’m thinking of your family tonight, sending love and prayers to all. Easter is a most special time. My Redeemer Lives! 🙏

    • Sheila, it was indeed an “all in the same boat” moment, the sort of thing that makes strangers feel like friends. Our world needs more of that! Thank you for thinking of us at Easter, and any time! “He is risen indeed” and because of that, we can hope. BTW it isn’t lost on me that it was JOB who first said “my redeemer lives!” As you might imagine, I identify closely with Job these days…

  9. What an adorable photo of Drew and Matt, they look like the happiest kids on the planet. I remember when I was younger, may 7 or 8, I’d laugh so hard that I’d snort. LOL That doesn’t happen too often now but when it does, I laugh even harder.
    I think the funniest parts of Carol Burnett were when they couldn’t keep a straight face at their silliness and would try so hard not to laugh. Humour is my silver bullet for many difficult moments. It’s like a sheild of steal that deflects nasty stuff. Once in a good while I might even get to laughing so darn hard I cry, those are fun too. One of the posters where I use to work said something like, “it’s hard not to be nice with a smile on your face”. Meaning, with the right attitude, it was much easier. I think the same could be said about a sense of humour, life is just much easier if you have one, keep it and use it liberally. xoxo K

    • K, I still laugh so hard I snort. In fact I did it just recently, on the phone with someone, and I was so embarrassed. Like you, I think the funniest thing in the world is when the comedians get tickled and can’t stop themselves from laughing. It’s just so contagious. I remember once when Eddie Murphy was a regular on SNL, he started having a hard time keeping a straight face and all at once he broke his routine to say (in a scolding tone) “Y’all stop it now, you gone make me laugh” and of course that just broke everyone up. I am smiling now just remembering it. And just smiling now makes me feel better. So then that worked so well I just had to hop on over to Dave Barry’s blog for a guaranteed quick laugh or two every time — or MANY laughs — it’s addictive! Try it — I can almost promise at least one thing will tickle your funny bone. http://blogs.herald.com/dave_barrys_blog/ He borrows the old format Esquire Magazine used to use back in the 1960s & 1970s for their “Dubious Achievement Awards.”

      • Megan

        I’ve heard this laugh of yours and it is infectious!!

      • I’ve linked to Daves site and added to my Favourite bookmarks. I must go back and visit after I finish Kelly’s Korner…..I’m here, there and everywhere tonight xoxoxoxox

        • Kelly, when I read your comment I just popped back over to Dave’s blog for the first time since I wrote that…it’s always therapeutic to go there! But I couldn’t stay long. I need to get over to Kelly’s Korner…

  10. Megan

    Reminds me of Grady & Owen!! This makes me want to get them matching pjs!!

    I’ll take all the humor I can get! Especially if we can laugh in the face of our fears!

    • I can’t remember whether the matching PJ’s were intentional or accidental. So many of their clothes were hand-me-downs and from the thrift shop or yard sales that I hardly remember buying many. In my eyes they looked adorable in everything anyway.

  11. “I think it is all a matter of love; the more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes.” Vladimir Nabokov

    • How true! That quote is especially fitting for this particular story. It reminds me of all the countless memories among family and friends that are told and re-told, and often adopted into esoteric words and phrases that have meaning only to those who know the story.

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