Lisa Alessio

Lisa Alessio / Along the Way

There is something about our need for laughter that fascinates me.

I was sitting in church and Pastor was delivering his message as only he can do, and when he got to a funny part, his congregation erupted in laughter, myself included. It was a wonderful sound, and as I sat there, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t really had such a good laugh in awhile. It was like a dam burst and what erupted was something held inside for far too long. We chuckled at Pastor’s illustrations, and smiles adorned the faces of many in the pews; and I wondered how many of them, like me, don’t have enough laughter in their week?

It was a light pause for humor during an otherwise very serious topic, and I grinned as I listened to the chortles of recognition in response to what we were hearing, thinking how badly I needed that comic relief. Laughter can be spiritual.

Later in the day, while having dinner with my kids and their dad, we sat around the table telling stories and talking while enjoying a delicious meal. Again, we laughed as we listened to each other and took in each other’s company.

My son moved out several weeks ago and it’s been hard for both of us, as it was a tough decision neither of us went into lightly. I haven’t spent much time with him these past few weeks, and our recent conversations have been serious and even sad for me at times. Sitting with him Sunday and laughing together reminded me that there is still a bond between us, regardless of where he lives. We’re still a family and still love each other very much, even though there are times when things are very difficult in each of our lives.

Our time spent together Sunday was welcomed and a relief from the tension he and I had shared. Laughter can be healing.

After dinner, I drove my daughter back to college. On the way, we were talking about some of the stresses she’s experiencing toward the end of her first year of school. I knew she needed my advice, so in my best “serious Mom” tone, I offered her some words of wisdom that I thought might help. She looked over at me with a pause and then this huge grin spread across her face. Suddenly, she burst into laughter. “What, what? What did I say?” I asked. She shook her head, smiling, and said, “It was just the way you said it, Mom. You’re such a character!”

After she got out of the car and headed to her dorm, I felt thankful she and I have the kind of relationship where we know when to be serious and when to be just plain silly. Laughter can be bonding.

Laughter has been described as the audible expression of happiness. It can lower blood pressure, ease stress, and benefit the circulatory system. Some studies suggest that other species are capable of laughing as well, yet nothing seems to equal the effect of human laughter.

How many of us have come home from a hard day out in the world and had the pleasure of sitting down to play with our young children, and then hear the sound of their laughter, melting every stressor from the day? There is something almost magical about hearing the first giggle of a baby. We celebrate it and tell everyone we know: “The baby laughed today!” I know that when my kids were younger, their laughter was like music to my ears. Even now that they’re grown, that familiar sound is a welcoming reminder that love can be heard, not just felt.

Victor Hugo said, “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” I like this expression as it seems to perfectly illustrate this unique ability. As we age, especially, we seem to allow life’s burdens to occupy much of our being, and we tend to lighten our hearts less and less. We become overwhelmed at times with what we’re dealing with, and the part of us that once embraced life’s lighter side escapes us more and more.

Each year our family spends a week together at a cabin on Lake Erie. It’s become a tradition that, while put aside for some time, we have re-introduced and look forward to every year. Last year, my sister and her youngest daughter joined us. It was so nice to have them along and it definitely added to the enjoyment of our time there.

We always spend time relaxing on the beach, shopping the downtown, enjoying the balmy summer nights, and eating entirely too much delicious food. In the evenings, we sometimes play board games, a particularly favorite pastime of ours. Often, these games precede some very silly antics by my sister and I. I don’t know what it is; maybe it’s just the idea of being at the cabin and totally relaxed and comfortable together, but last year the laughter was so over-the-top, the girls said everyone in the other cabins most likely heard the hilarity going on in ours. It was pure joy. We still hear about it; and we told the girls to look out, because this year we’ll be legends before the week is over.

Life is such a roller coaster. We deal with ups and downs all the time. We have huge responsibilities and we have deadlines to meet, bills to pay, kids to attend to, homes to keep running…the list goes on and on. Somewhere in the midst of all of it, we have to remember to find our humor. We have to let our joy overflow from within us. We have to smile. Even when we are dealing with the most difficult times, we can surprise even ourselves that we still have the ability to find some unexpected whimsy. It’s as if our souls know when we need that relief, even though our minds may not.

Probably one of the most satisfying experiences is our ability to bring a smile to the face of someone who is feeling down. We tend to want to reach out to each other and bring comfort and cheer to those we love. It’s interesting, really, when you think about it. I wonder if this is something unique to human beings, this desire to cheer each other up? I just know that some of my most memorable times were those spent with the people I care about, laughing together and carrying on, telling funny stories and being silly.

I think each of us needs that. So let your hair down. Laugh out loud! Laughter can be a celebration of life.

God bless and have a great week!

Lisa K. Alessio is a lifelong resident and writer living in Grove City. She writes on life, faith and family for Allied News. Reach her at alongthe way2009@yahoo.com.

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