Recently, I was honored to speak at a breakfast event. I think that on stage is where I feel most at home. During the program, I created a spring wreath, but what the audience seemed to enjoy most were my humorous stories. People were doubled over with laughter and my heart smiled. Someone came up to me after the event and said, “Mark, if you ever fail as an artist, you would be a great comedian!” I must admit that I got my humor naturally.
There were not many creative people in my family, but humor filled our house in every nook and cranny. My mother was hilarious, and you didn’t have to be around her for long before you knew it. When I think of her, she is laughing. She had such a wonderful laugh even to her last hours on earth.
When people gathered at our house after her death, it was not surprising that every story recounted was funny. What a wonderful way to be remembered, I thought as we all laughed the night away. One lady told me it sounded like we were having a party instead of a visitation. I smiled and told her we were. That’s the way Mother would have wanted it.
Laughter tags along with me in every aspect of my life. Whether I’m teaching, creating or performing, humor always sneaks in. In every single art class, we all end up laughing hysterically. Heads are thrown back or launched forward as we laugh so hard that we can barely catch our breath, let alone speak. In fact, sometimes we shake so hard, we have to put our pencils down. But, that’s okay with us. Our pencils will still be there after we regain composure.
Our son, Blake keeps us in stitches every time he visits. We yearn for the weekends he and wife come home, because we know someone will end up nearly wetting their pants from laughter. I need to tell you that Blake is the “R-rated” version of me. Every time he tells a joke, I can still hear Daddy saying, “Now Blake, you better stop that kind of ...” before giving in to laughter. Blake is a master of taking an ordinary situation and shifting it into a comedy show without a second thought.
A good example of this was last year at my wife Debra’s birthday party. We had requested that no gifts be brought but since some were given anyway, Blake decided to have some fun with it. After everyone had enjoyed their meal, Blake was assisting me in the cutting of two cakes I had baked for Debra. With a dead serious face, Blake asked for everyone’s attention. “Will everyone who didn’t bring my Mom a gift or card please raise your hand?” Debra and I were mortified as hands were reluctantly raised. “Well, y’all will not be getting any cake!” After a second, the shock lifted from people’s faces and everyone roared with laughter.
Laughter is what we remember from any gathering. We don’t remember the boring get-togethers we attend but we won’t forget the fun ones. Laughter is the memory most filed away in our minds. We can call upon these memories when we need them the most. I can’t tell you the times I’m having a difficult day and remember a funny memory and burst out laughing, even if I’m by myself. Sometimes it happens when I’m driving and stopped at a red light. You wouldn’t believe the looks I’ve receive. Who cares?
There is something marvelous about laughter. It’s difficult to be laughing and sad at the same time. Laughter is a gift that keeps on giving. It lifts our spirits from dark places and helps us forget our troubles at least for a while. In a world filled with hate and uncertainty, laughter is a lifeline we all need to grab. It has the power to save us just when we need it most. We all need to laugh more. This week let’s all try to laugh more! Imagine what a difference it would make.
Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to 3514 Ridge Avenue, Macon, GA 31204; call 478-757-6877; email firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him at instagram.com/mark creates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.
Laughter is the gift that keeps on giving