A sunny spirit

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

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

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia! I just love this post. I hope your day today includes a good dose of healing laughter!

    • Thank you Susan! I’m so late getting to this comment that I can’t remember all the details of that day, but Matt and I spent most of the day in the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter (Diagon Alley, Hogsmead, the Hogwarts campus, and on the train journeys in between London and Hogsmead)– all at the Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando– so it’s a sure bet that we had lots of laughter along with a great many thrilling adventures.

      • I had no idea that the park even existed. I’m so glad you were able to make use of it and enjoy it. It sounds very fun.

        • Not only is it fun, it’s actually quite amazing. Virtual reality keeps upping the ante in entertainment. Imagine being able to fly behind Harry Potter over the Quidditch fields (with Hermione’s help, of course) or ride on Hagrid’s motorbike. For Harry Potter fans, it’s a blast. There were several adult as well as younger visitors in costumes there, just pretending to be part of the magic.

  2. Susan

    Julia, what a sweet picture, and an amazing story! Yes, I can’t imagine people reacting that way on our Metro here in DC. This strikes me as a type of reaction that might happen in Ireland too — they are so very good-natured. Once in a TripAdvisor thread people were asked to share stories of good-willed things that happened to them while traveling in Ireland and there were so many, both funny and touching.

    • Susan, I love these true stories from everyday life! It makes for a perfect antidote to the toxicity of the 24/7 “news” cycle (in which scary/sad/tragic/horrible things are repeated endlessly, sometimes for days on end, as if hearing them once was not traumatic enough). Most people are pretty good souls, I’ve found. We all have our “off” days but there seems always to be that spark of humor, good will or whimsy just below the surface. I hope someday to go to Ireland! I don’t need to kiss the Blarney Stone because I already have the gift of gab, but it would be lovely to be among kindred spirits!

  3. MaryAnn

    Precious shot of your boys! Children & laughter: perfect combo for JOY!

    • Thank you Mary Ann! That has long been one of my favorite pictures.

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