This I Believe

John - Temple, Pennsylvania
Entered on February 16, 2008
Age Group: 65+

This I Believe

I believe in the power of laughter to save one’s soul. I learned this wisdom from a prostitute as I was going to church one Sunday morning. That itself is funny.

I had been a minister for nearly twenty-five years. If you think this is easy, guess again. It’s a wonderful but taxing profession in which one is called to be jack of all trades and, yes, often a master of none. Here I was supposed to save others and I couldn’t even save myself from being chronically tired and frustrated most of the time.

It was early one Sunday morning after a Saturday evening of counseling a couple and visiting a shut-in that I headed to my church office to prepare a sermon I hadn’t had time

to write all week. The past week was like a whirlwind. I was the high priest of busyness, rushing from meeting to meeting, taking care of everyone else but myself.

As I headed toward the inner city church near the red light district, a woman spotted me and approached. “Want to have some fun?” she asked. “No,” I said without thinking, “I can’t have any fun—I’m going to church.”

Only when I got into my office and was staring at a blank computer screen did I realize the wonderful wisdom I had offered myself about just how serious I had become about my profession and saving the world. I laughed aloud because I knew I had expressed what I really felt—I was losing my soul and of all places in a church!

It took me another year, but I extricated myself from the work that had drained me and retired early to write, teach, and, yes, have fun. In fact, contrary to my serious religious upbringing, my new spiritual practice has been to find what brings joy to me and others.

In the eyes of the world, I don’t seem successful. I don’t minister to a mega-church. I don’t have much money and my retirement is not very good. But I believe I have never felt so good about myself and in a strange way so happy. If there is a life beyond this one, I hope at the pearly gates I will hear a few good jokes and the ripple of laughter. Then I believe I’ll be safe from serious people.