Healing Power of Laughter

Sunday I wrote about my upcoming commencement speech and asked you to think about the stories from your past that influenced who you are today. Here’s the second one of mine I’ll share this week.

My wife and I had just started dating. We were in her living room watching a baseball game. Ken Griffey, Jr. was up to bat. Beatrice was trying to impress me with her baseball knowledge.

She said, “His father played baseball too. Didn’t he?”

She was referring to Ken Griffey, Jr.’s father who did indeed play professional baseball.

I was impressed.

In fact, I thought it was awesome. I got me a cool woman. She knows her stuff. She can hang with the boys.

Then she said, “What was his father’s name again?”

I looked at her with some surprise. Eventually I said, “That would be Ken Griffey, Sr.”

What happened next is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen anyone do. She laughed. She laughed out loud, without apology or any attempt to cover up her mistake (which is exactly what I would have been doing). She realized it was okay to laugh at herself.

I never knew that.

I always thought I had to appear smart. Sure, mistakes happen. But I couldn’t possibly allow the kind that make me look dumb or foolish.

But Beatrice wasn’t dumb, and she wasn’t foolish. She was intelligent, savvy, funny, beautiful, remarkable in so many ways. And she knew how to laugh – at jokes and comedians and TV shows and herself. And while it took some time, she eventually taught me how to laugh at myself.

It is one of the greatest lessons and greatest gifts of my lifetime.

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