This I Believe

Hannah - St. Paul, Minnesota
Entered on October 2, 2007

I believe in laughter.

I was born into a family of jokesters, so sense of humor is in my blood. Family gatherings have always been the same; good food, drink, and boisterous laughter. I was taught that the best way to solve a problem is to make it funny. I have found truth in this for every aspect of my life.

My first job after high school graduation was with a program called United Cerebral Palsy. My job was inclusion facilitator, which meant helping kids with disabilities participate in activities with their peers. I worked at a summer camp with a young girl named Emma. Emma has severe Cerebral Palsy and has been restricted to a wheelchair all her life. She is mostly blind and has limited speech. When camp first started, I struggled to include Emma in daily activities. I tried to encourage the counselors and campers to form a relationship with Emma, but found it extremely difficult.

It was in the pool where Emma came to life. From the moment her body touched the water each day, she couldn’t control her laughter. It was her most joyful routine, and swimming with her during those times made me understand and feel close to her.

One day, when the other campers were playing water games, I had an idea. I filled up a balloon with water and brought it to Emma. She took it from me and squeezed it, popping the balloon and splashing water all over. Emma let out a shriek of laughter and pleaded for another. The other campers heard her laughter and came to see what was going on. I gave Emma another balloon and she popped it, making not only herself laugh, but the other campers too. One by one the campers watched me hand Emma balloons, making her shake with laughter. Soon, the campers began to make water balloons and hand them to Emma. She laughed hysterically and asked for another, and another, and another. The campers were rolling with laughter, and they quickly immersed Emma into a game they created around her. The campers no longer took notice of Emma’s disability, but instead they saw Emma for who she is.

After that point, I never had to ask for help feeding Emma or pushing her around camp. The campers took on these tasks and were overjoyed to do a favor for her. They didn’t just see her as someone they needed to help; they saw her as a friend. They saw her as someone that was filled with laughter just like them, and they understood one another.

I believe that laughter is the key to understanding. I believe that laughter is the most honest form of communication. I believe that the best way to know someone is to know what makes them laugh. I believe that laughter is the key to leading a movement, and to inspiring people towards a common vision. I believe that laughter will make people humble again.

I believe in laughter.