The other night my family and I were watching television when something struck me as funny. It made them laugh too just not for nearly as long, which made me laugh more. There I was, sitting on the couch, almost unable to talk, tears rolling down my cheeks.
It felt good.
Joanna had a similar experience on Sunday. One of our community members made an off-hand remark that left her non-stop giggling. He thought it was great, especially because his humour had such success when he wasn’t even trying to be funny.
At the end of our Thrift Store Drop-In a friend managed to crack a joke about his own circumstances that made everyone laugh, including him. Any tension that had existed in the room felt like it suddenly dissipated.
Someone commented that research shows that laughter really does help. I looked it up and found that there are investigations into whether it is the act of laughter that is beneficial or if “a good sense of humor, a positive attitude, and the support of friends and family might play a role, too” (WebMD). Proverbs says that, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength”.
I am grateful that laughter in the context of a supportive community at home and The Dale served to fill me up this week, and that it had a similar impact on others.
Maybe I should invest in a good joke book.
I will admit that I have been overwhelmed by the last week: the violence in too many cities, the posts on Facebook, the news, the terrible feeling in my gut that peace is at best, a distant ideal. I just feel sad. I can’t seem to find the words to respond. For someone who generally processes out loud, this is a strange and uncomfortable place to be.
I have long understood that this world is a mess. I contribute to it. I make mistakes everyday. I also want to heed the call to, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2) I want to seek after justice and care for the widows and orphans all while turning the other cheek, but wow, it ain’t easy.
My spirits have been buoyed by a few incidents at The Dale. I have seen people vehemently disagree only to embrace and wish one another peace. I participated in ushering someone out of a drop-in (a rarity for us). Though I believed it necessary for the safety of the individual and our space I was very conflicted by it, only to experience the relief of having the same person return the following week peaceful and somewhat lucid, our relationship intact. Since suggesting that submitting to God might involve his being “less of a bonehead” a community member has spurred many of us on to consider how we can do the same.
These stories don’t help me make sense of the tragedies around the globe. They do help me consider what seeking peace looks like in my own context and how it might spill over into other regions. Giving peace a chance need not be a naive platitude. In my own experience making a choice for it is uncomfortable, exhausting and dirty work. Loving my neighbour as myself sounds easy until I think about the full ramifications of it.What cuts through the discomfort, fatigue and grime is how deeply good the work is. There is a courageousness to choosing peace.
“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Ps 34:14)
Looking earnestly at me from across the table he said, “Now tell me, what are we going to if The Dale has to start paying rent in the buildings we use? I’m concerned about this. What’s going to happen?”
I took a deep breath and said, “We’ll just have to find the money.”
I could see the look of anxiety in my friend’s eyes, recognizable because I all too often see it in my own face when I look in the mirror. This friend knows what it means to not have enough money to pay for rent AND buy food. I wonder for a moment how I can share the experience of seeing The Dale having its needs met consistently when that does not seem to be the case for so many people living in poverty. However, as I sat with this dear person in a room filled with our community happily chatting, eating, creating art and making music I thought: the story of The Dale’s survival is our collective good news.
We began to commiserate about next steps. I was moved to tears when he said, “how about I teach music lessons and just give you all the money for rent”. Other people joined in the conversation: one said that once he starts selling some of his wares the money will go to The Dale, another said she’d give us a cut of what she panhandles each week.
This is the widow’s mite. The Dale is strengthened by the sacrificial giving of people who have very little materially. I am humbled by this generosity and trust that through it we will indeed have enough.