This I Believe…
Follow the Laughter
There is an adage in business and politics that suggests you (follow the money) to understand why people behave the way they do. Maybe so, but I believe that for the important personal choices in life — including friendship, love, marriage, career choices and more — it’s better to follow the laughter.
I grew up in a family of story tellers and laughter was how we started and ended the day. Dinner times were long and talkative, punctuated by timely commands to (Stop laughing and swallow your milk!) One brother was especially adept at animal imitations, while the other excelled in the quick come-back. I was the gullible one, which only added to the merriment.
Oddly, I took a wrong turn later and lost track of laughter for a time. I had a brief glimmer of going the wrong way when my fiancT suggested that we’d never be happier than we were right then, before our wedding vows. His intent was good: he was cherishing the moment; but what I heard was that the laughter would not build, but only diminish. I brushed it off as pre-wedding jitters. We tried mightily, but there wasn’t enough shared laughter to sustain the connection and we divorced.
Before long, I recognized my second husband-to-be when he sat across a dinner table from me. He told a story of being stranded at sea in a small boat with three friends, one pregnant, another with an arm in a sling, the third with a broken leg. The halyard had snagged at the top of the mast and someone had to climb up to free it. Immediately obvious to him, despite his fear of heights, was that he would be the one to go aloft. Immediately obvious to me, despite my fear of remarriage, was that this was the man for me — someone who could tell a funny story at dinner, yes, but even better, a man who could laugh at himself.
Fifteen happy years later, I still locate my husband at his workplace by tracking the sound of his laughter. Our children gather at our dinner table and tell stories and one is pretty good at imitating animals. It turns out that laughter sustains not only love, but friendship and family, and it’s certainly an easier way to get through adversity. Laughter is even an indicator of work ethic, maybe because hard work goes faster that way. Where laughter is shared, there tends to be camaraderie, loyalty, honesty and self-awareness — all good qualities for building a life. So I say to my children, listen for the laughter, your own and others’, and it will lead you to what you love — the people, the places, even the work.
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