While working with Hurricane Katrina victims, as a hospital chaplain, I was struck by the quick turn-around one patient took, when he suddenly found something to laugh about.
He lost everything he owned, including his house, his pets, and his brand new 5-day old F150 Ford pick-up truck. His adult children and his wife were safe, but like most Mississippi coast residents who lost all, he was depressed and numb.
About a week into his hospital stay I stopped by his room for a follow-up visit. He looked at me and said, “Rev,” which is what he and a lot of country folk call a minister, but he said, “Rev, you probably don’t know who George Carlin is, being a preacher and all, do you?”
To which I said, “George Carlin? Of course I do! Before I was ‘Rev’ I was ‘Irrev.’ Why, I’m from Toledo and I grew-up on George Carlin.”
He smiled and said, “Toledo Window Box?” (A reference to one of George Carlin’s most popular recordings). “Well then, do you remember the old George Carlin comedy bit on “Stuff?”
“Of course I do,” I said, and then we both started laughing as we began recounted that comedy bit on “Stuff.”
Carlin’s bit on “Stuff” was a comedic way of poking fun at our obsession to have more things and never being satisfied with enough.
After we laughed, the Hurricane Katrina victim, said, “Rev, I was just thinking, before you came in, it’s just stuff – all I lost was stuff. I can always go out and get more stuff.”
At that point in the conversation, I wish I could tell you that I launched into a big theological discourse, but I did not – I followed his lead and laughed some more, joining him in reciting more lines of the “Stuff” comedy bit!
The next day when I made my rounds, his nurse stopped me. She said, “Chaplain, what kind of prayer did you have with him yesterday, because his whole outlook has changed?” I thought to myself, prayer? We had a comedy show!
We were all amazed by the emotional and physical healing that took place for him after that unscheduled session of comedy, humor, and laughter.
Laughter is God’s gift to help us cope with the trials and stress of our daily lives. In fact, God says “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).