I used to wear a watch. Now, I have an iPhone. (But that trade is a story for another time.) Back in the days when I wore a watch, way back when I was in fifth grade, I discovered a use for my watch that no one had ever told me about. My watch was a mild weapon.
I sat near the large, floor-to-ceiling windows of my fifth grade classroom. That was a mistake right off. I had an incredible view from our second-floor classroom of the kids from other classes running around during their recess while I sat sweltering in class. And I sweltered. The afternoon sun baked me, making me even more drowsy than Mr. Zweers’ lectures already made me. But something happened one day day that woke me up from my afternoon siesta. It was a blinding flash of light from the crystal face of my watch.
Once I discovered that mirrored circle of light, I began to play with it, learning how to control it. Soon, I was sending that piercing beam of reflected light across the room and into the unsuspecting eyes of my classmates, temporarily blinding them and sending me into a fit of giggles.
I got so good at it that I could laser someone across the room and seem like I was innocently doing my homework. Eventually, the classmates near me caught on, discovering that they could do the same thing. But what was so great was only the handful of us sitting next to the window had access to sunlight, so no one could get me back.
Until we got new seats.
Then I became the victim of the watchbeams of my former victims. And all of a sudden, it wasn’t nearly as fun or funny. It was painful and annoying. I’d be doing my work like the lovely little lad I was and then I’d get blasted by not just one but two or three fiery beams of light, as my friends teamed up to pay me back for all the torture I’d inflicted on them.
For some reason, causing discomfort for others is funny to most of us. I loved watching the Little Rascals on TV when I was a kid. (No, I didn’t see them when they first came out. I’m not THAT old.) I loved how they did things that should get them in trouble. I was a kid after all, and their rule-breaking was adventuresome and humorous to me as a fellow kid. But then I became an adult. And all of a sudden, those same hi jinx done by my own kids weren’t nearly so enjoyable, especially when I was at the receiving end.
I guess I’ve come to two opposite conclusions.
The first is simply a repeat of the Golden Rule: Do to others what you’d have them do to you. If I’m not willing to have what I’m doing to others done to me, I probably should do it to them myself.
The second is: Don’t lose your sense of humor. Some things are uncomfortable, but they really are quite funny. Sometimes, that means laughing at others in the endless supply of YouTube videos because it makes the tragic things in our own lives seem not so bad for a little while. And sometimes, that means being willing to be the butt of the joke that enables some to giggle and others to give themselves over to a tears-down-the-face belly laugh that is life’s best medicine.
Last summer, we were at Lake Tahoe, soaking up the sun on one of its beaches. Then one of my kids pointed out a young man on a stand-up paddle board. He was doing his absolutely best to look cool. But no sooner had he stood up on the board then down he went again with an awkward splash. He’d already been at this for a while before it was brought to my attention, but I watched him as he tenaciously tried to master that board over and over and over again for the next half-hour. And every time, it mastered him and he toppled off the too-small board and into Tahoe’s blue wetness. And every time, my kids and I will laugh some more. Finally, he exchanged the board for one that matched his size and the fun was over. But that 30 minutes of slapstick lightened my heart so much that I have promised my kids I will intentionally play the fool on a paddleboard this coming summer so that others may laugh at me.
The Deschutes River here in Bend may be much colder than Lake Tahoe, but that’s OK. I want humor in my life. And I’m willing to suffer the chill of the Deschutes like a piercing flash of watch-light in order to give the gift of humor to others as well.