success stories

Posted October 3, 2003

Humor Just Might Be a Virtue

By Father Eugene Hemrick

"Father, come on over here, I have something to show you."

As I approached A.J., one of my favorite Capitol Hill policemen, he handed me a newspaper clipping that contained a list of the funniest T-shirts of 2003 by Bob Levey of the Washington Post. Among them were:

"At my age, getting lucky is finding my car in the parking lot."

"Some days you're the pigeon, some days you're the statue."

"We got rid of the kids -- the cat was allergic."

"Hang up and drive."

"In God we trust -- others we polygraph."

"Earth is the insane asylum of the universe."

"My mind works like lightning -- one brilliant flash and it is gone."

Needless to say, I broke out laughing. When I left A.J.'s company, I felt lighthearted. What is it in humor that gives us this feeling?

For one thing, humor makes us human.

Take for example the sayings: "At my age getting lucky is finding my car in the parking lot," and, "My mind works like lightning -- one brilliant flash and it is gone." The first saying admits that older age and its results is part of being human. The other admits that our minds aren't perfect: To be human is to err -- or go blank.

In a very true way, when we laugh at ourselves we show that we are authentic human beings who admit our faults. We don't try to be someone we aren't.

Humor also has a nice way of addressing a serious problem without becoming too serious. Take for example, "Hang up and drive." My guess is that most of us become irritated when we get behind a driver who is talking on a car phone. When I passed this joke along to a friend, her immediate reaction was: "That hits the nail on the head. How I hate people who drive while on the phone."

Humor surfaces irritations and allows us to confront them without becoming too confrontational. It surfaces deep-seated dislikes and roots them out without disturbing the ground around them.

Most of all, humor allows us to laugh at the oddities of life, which, if left to themselves, can get us down.

Take for example, "In God we trust -- others we polygraph." The daily news repeatedly carries stories of dishonesty. But we don't like being told that noted CEOs cheated innocent people or that our athletes are dishonest. Humor gives us a breather from the list of disappointments that come from living in a world filled with dishonesty.

This breather gives us the energy to once again enter that world and deal more calmly with its vices.

The next time you're out for a walk, be on the lookout for humorous T-shirts. One of them may be just what is needed to lighten your heart, help you breathe more deeply and feel more human.