When I studied abroad in Chile my junior year of college it was the longest I had ever been away from home. The semester was four months long and I had moments of intense homesickness. I missed family and friends who knew me well. There was one thing that carried me through those moments…laughter. I laughed with Chilean friends about mistakes I made learning a new language but I laughed most with Kelsi, a classmate in the program. She was the most amazing laugher I have ever encountered. With very little prompting Kelsi could laugh long and hard. It was impossible not to laugh with her. We laughed until we cried, until our stomachs hurt and we were gasping for breath. It was curative, cleansing laughter.
With gray skies dominant in last week’s daily forecast, the world felt very heavy on many levels. I arrived at English class at White Plains Presbyterian Church on Thursday night feeling tired. I joined the Beginner/Intermediate group as we practiced different responses to the question, “How are you?” Tired, happy, hungry, okay, angry, busy,… homesick. We laughed together about how similar the words hungry and angry sound. We laughed at each other acting out the different feelings with our faces. We laughed at the Advanced group laughing about something else at the table across the room. At the end of class there was a buoyancy and lightness in the room that replaced the nervousness of first meetings and the dreariness of the weather outside. I left the church building that night so grateful for a community that offers a place for laughter.
I wonder how often we think of our communities of faith as places that nurture the gift of laughing together? Some of my favorite memories as a child are of (unsuccessfully) suppressing laughter in church, giggling in a pew with friends or siblings. But I also have wonderful spirit-filled memories of congregational laughter and contagious joy rippling through the sanctuary. What are your stories of laughter?
Perhaps this video will refresh your memory!
The Reverend Sarah Henkel serves as Cross-Cultural Catalyst for Hudson River Presbytery and Parish Associate for Outreach at White Plains Presbyterian Church. She’s not a fan of winter but she does like this joke: “How does a Snowman (err…Snowperson!) get to work?” “By icicle!”