This month, I went to the Laity Lodge in the Texas hill country to speak to mental health chaplains about methods to relieve stress in their lives.
One of the talks I gave was about the numerous studies on the benefits of laughter to reduce stress. For instance, there are physical benefits of laughter that include boosting the immune system, circulation and improving cardiovascular health.
To get these benefits, it is sometimes necessary to force the laughter. I started our retreat by asking six chaplains to give their best Santa Claus laugh. We made a contest of it and a few of their laughs made you feel you were in Santa’s workshop.
So, with the pump of frivolity fully primed, I shared with them some of the stories I’ve shared with you in previous columns.
I told them how humor helped me in the midst of a difficult deployment to the Middle East. The humor came at my expense when I dropped my Air Force officer’s cap into a toilet.
Since it carried my name and a Christian cross, I was obliged to retrieve the soiled cap. The funniest part came, however, when I went to requisition a new hat from our senior chaplain assistant.
As I stood explaining my predicament, the master sergeant bent over, slapping both his knees.
“Give me one good reason,” he said, “that I should get you a new hat after you made such a dumb mistake.”
Well, I explained, “There are a few bad officers who carry a hat full of crap, but it takes a really good officer to admit it.”
With that remark, the sergeant fell prostrate, hysterically beating the floor with his fist.
“I give up, chaplain,” he declared. “You got your new hat.”
When I wrote that column, I got a hand-written letter from a reader who asked me not to share that kind of bathroom humor. I’m sorry I offended her, but I have to say in my own defense I’m sure Jesus would have laughed hysterically over that one.
Finally, I reminded my chaplain audience of the emotional benefits of laughter by telling them it reduces stress, anger and anxiety. It improves mood, optimism and emotional intelligence. But the best thing about laughter is it can get you off your backside and unstuck.
The point is well-made in the humorous poem that I read to myself whenever I need a little encouragement to stop feeling sorry for myself and move forward.
The poem is a parody of the famous poem, “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson (Zangare) that describes the promise of God to “never leave you.”
The parody is called, “Buttprints in the Sand,” author unknown.
One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.
But then some strange prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, “What have we here?”
Those prints are large and round and neat,
“But Lord, they are too big for feet.”
“My child,” he said in somber tones,
“For miles I carried you along.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.”
“You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know,
So I got tired, I got fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt.”
“Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their buttprints in the sand.”