I thought of a particular (and might I say hilarious) instance that I want to share… When I was an Resident Assistant, I would often leave my door open so that my residents could pop in with any questions, concerns, a quick hello, or just to chat. This particular evening was one of the first few weeks of school and three girls from the floor stayed in my room for hours on end, sitting at my kitchen table, eating, talking and laughing. One girl, Frankie, ran downstairs and got a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to snack on while we talked. She ate it rather quickly and washed it down with a big glass of water. I suppose something particularly funny must have happened (I cannot quite remember) because suddenly Frankie projectile vomited watery ice cream down her shirt and onto her legs amidst a splutter of laughter and coughing. The other two girls were disgusted and possibly embarrassed that I had witnessed such an absurd series of events, but I threw myself onto my bed in a fit of laughter that went on for what seemed like ten minutes.
And our laughter changed everything. Since we opened ourselves to the hilarity of the situation, there were no more barriers to knock down, nothing to hide behind, no reason to pretend. Our friendship became genuine, accepting and (obviously) filled with laughter. Frankie and I laughed. Right there amidst the vomit, the empty Ben and Jerry’s container and the Clorox wipes, we laughed. Frankie could have easily suffered in embarrassment or shame, but she laughed, cleaned up, changed her clothes and came right back to sit at the kitchen table and continue our conversations. She made me realize what vomiting up ice cream can really do for a relationship! Frankie was comfortable enough with herself to laugh, I was comfortable enough with myself to laugh; we were liberated, but our outward expression of unrestrained laughter liberated the other. She avoided the feelings of embarrassment and shame not only by her own laughter but also in our laughter, in the wordless physical expression that laughter held for us. She didn’t need to apologize for making a mess and I didn’t need to assure her that I didn’t care—the laughter said it all.
The art of humor is something that stems from intellect and ignites both the heart and the mind. In laughing at the absurdity of a situation, be it something we are or are not related to, gives us a new perspective. We laugh because we see something we have never seen before or something we have seen a million times in a completely new light. Humor makes people think. It’s the best of both worlds, an emotional release and a rational expression that has the power to build relationships.