“Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun.” Randolph F. “Randy” Pausch, Ph.D.
I am on the phone talking with my sister, Brenda, about an upcoming presentation at a three-day retreat for cancer patients – those currently in treatment and those in remission – and many volunteers. The event, Camp Bluebird in Mobile, Alabama, is celebrating their 25th year.
The reason for talking with my sister is to better understand my audience so that I can prepare a meaningful message. Brenda is the right person to answer my questions. Approaching her one-year anniversary of a breast cancer diagnosis, she has already gone through chemotherapy, radiation oncology therapy, and surgery. She also happens to possess a keen sense of awareness. Moreover, it helps that Brenda is very smart!
I ask her what she would want to hear from a speaker at a cancer retreat if she was attending. “Tickle their funny bone!” she exclaims. Recounting her own history in cancer treatment, Brenda emphasizes how humor has played such a big part in her journey.
Very quickly, I am transported to a wild scene with women at a wig party. As she tells the tale, she is laughing out loud at some very funny moments, now special memories central to her cancer journey. She talks about a women’s make-up party, and vividly describes the scenario of trying on a red wig. Our mom had red hair, thus Brenda wants to honor Mother with this red wig. It does not work out! “I look ridiculous with red hair!” she laughs.
As she shares memorable stories, I listen. She is laughing the entire time. In a moment of inspiration, it strikes me: A laugh memory is a very significant therapeutic tool for those fighting cancer. Such jovial memories are available to everyone, regardless of individual situations. How many times have you laughed when recalling funny moments from your own life?
Laughter is great when it is spontaneous in the moment. Humor can also come from the past, as demonstrated by my sister’s stories.
Honoring Brenda’s request, my presentation is light-hearted. Lots of laughter in the audience – somewhat more than I anticipated. Is it possible that those who are going through tough times recognize in a deeper sense the need to laugh? Are they perhaps more open to having fun? Can someone with cancer teach us something about humor? As I speak, I sense that sitting right before me are people looking for a ray of sunshine, something or someone, to help make the current moment more positive – a way to find faith for the future.
This audience is ready to laugh! And not just at my stories. Undoubtedly, one of the best audiences I have ever had the privilege to address. They have a deep understanding of, and appreciation for life. I may share a valuable message that they embrace, but they are actually living it. The road to laughter and fun is paved by those who are ready for laughter and fun.
After delivering the presentation, I am privileged to spend time with these special people during dinner, hearing their individual stories – real and very powerful. I mostly listen! Despite the magnitude of great challenges, they embrace life.
The important role of laughter in the healing process has been researched and documented. Whether or not our particular combat is with cancer, we all have struggles in life. And we are connected to family and friends who have perhaps even greater challenges. No adult can live life without these trials. How vital is laughter in any given scenario? I would guess that most of us would rank it high in importance.
How often is humor a part of your day? My guess is that for many of us, the occurrence of humorous moments is less than what we might desire. There may be a gap. Is it possible that reducing this gap could advance us forward in many areas and meaningful ways? I believe so. The cancer patients at Camp Bluebird confirm this reality.
If humor is that important as a neverending necessity, how can we effect an increase in an element so crucial to human balance? Without even knowing it, Brenda gives us the answer. When you suddenly realize you are having a week when there is little laughter, schedule time with a friend or family member and start recalling humorous events, sharing the laughable details. There is something about telling a funny story that is indeed, downright funny – maybe even funnier the second time around. Press your ‘laugh memory button’ and start the cheerfulness.
We are familiar with the idiom, laughing all the way to the bank.
What about creating . . .
Laughing your way to success.
Laughing your way toward healing.
Laughing your way to helping others.
Laughing your way to a greater life.
Laughing your way to . . .
Laughter is the byproduct of practicing a life principle that is easy to implement and desired by all. A philosophy that will increase your opportunity for success. A way of thinking that will enhance your life in many positive ways. The life principle is “have fun!”
Having fun positively affects relationships. And relationships are the source of all success. It can work in the toughest situations – such as for those going through cancer treatment as well as for their caregivers. Thanks to many wonderful volunteers, this element is very much evident at Camp Bluebird!
As I leave the retreat Wednesday evening, I am mentally soaring! I am pumped up. I cannot wait to get home to share this unforgettable experience with Carol, my wife. I had lots of fun with a group of people who really know how to have fun.
Following in the great example exhibited at Camp Bluebird, how can we have fun every day? Laugh out loud! When laughter isn’t immediately visible, do what Brenda does – recall funny memories.