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Milt Hankins: Laughter really is the best medicine

Sep. 23, 2013 @ 09:16 AM

Do you remember Reader's Digest's "Laughter Is the Best Medicine"? It was one of my favorite features. I recall reading it as a youngster since Reader's Digest was the only magazine which came in our mailbox regularly. By the way, whatever happened to Reader's Digest? I don't see that distinctive, contents-listing cover anymore. Has it been replaced by pithy sayings transmitted electronically?

But, back to the subject of laughter. As you probably already know, humans are the only members of the animal kingdom capable of laughing. I am told that children laugh as much as 20 times a day more than adults, that as we get older we become less impressed by the humor around us.

Comedians work especially hard to make up jokes that will get a laugh. Talk to any stand-up comedian and they'll tell you at least one story about falling flat on their face before a crowd who came expecting to hear funny stuff.

Recently, just for the fun of it, I thought about making up my own stand-up comedy routine. I couldn't come up with jokes that anyone other than me would laugh at. So, I gave up the idea. Well, that's not exactly true. I told one of my jokes to a friend, and he actually broke up laughing. One joke, however, does not a comedy routine make.

"Laughter Is the Best Medicine." I still believe that; and, as a matter of fact, I found a few impressive Bible verses on the subject of laughter. I found that "there is a time to weep, and there is a time to laugh." (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Although there are not many verses in the Bible that have to do with laughter, I found it interesting that God seems to have enjoyed a bit of frivolity. Someone mentioned to me once that the creator of the platypus certainly had a sense of humor.

I discovered that Sarai laughed when she found out that she was going to bear a child in her old age. Who wouldn't laugh at that?

Although some of the things Jesus said had a tinge of humor, he seems not to have been a laugher. Sometimes people laughed at him. For example, when he told a synagogue official that his daughter had not died, the crowd laughed at him (Matthew 9:24), but it turned out that Jesus was right.

No, Jesus was not a laugher. He said once, "Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep." (Luke 6:25). Be that as it may, in my opinion, there is great joy in laughter. While I was a pastor, folks refrained from sharing salacious stories with me. After I retired, I heard lots of funny tales and some jokes I thought were very amusing, but I hesitated to repeat them.

Most laughter grows out of truth and everyday situations. Amazing how many times a day we could laugh off a situation instead of making a big deal out of it. We would be happier and healthier if we did so!

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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