We sometimes must laugh to keep from crying. Our sense of humor is a very important escape mechanism that periodically rescues us from depressing thoughts and situations.

This relief valve can be publicly activated at the most embarrassing moments of otherwise very somber circumstances. But no matter the timing, the need to laugh is a most valued and necessary act of the human spirit.

Images flash across our mental screen, whether by actually seeing them or by pictures painted by words in a story form. Let me illustrate by telling a couple of stories that could possibly release even some tears of laughter. Science tells us that tears of joy and tears of sorrow have different chemical consistencies. Shall we try to release some tears of joy?

A prim and proper lady well known for her exquisite taste in attire accompanied by a visible pride in her body language exited a public restroom. The necessity of her stop now completed, her makeup checked and her hair lightly fluffed, her designer slacks correctly adjusted, and her costly blouse neatly tucked in, she proudly strolled down the mall.

As she passed me, a long white tail of toilet tissue that did not go with her color-coordinated outfit was neatly tucked into the waistband of her designer slacks. The point of laughter ignition was the fact that she did not know. There she was, Miss America, with her white tail and all. My upbringing taught me never to make fun of anyone, and I honestly tried to obey, but the laugher in me would not be silent even though choked by my intentions of “ought to, want to, but can’t.”

I might have tried to intervene, but my tears of laughter so blurred my vision that I dared not risk walking fast behind her and misjudging my reach of rescue and receiving a slap of self-defense and screams for security. I admittedly enjoyed the parade of fashion until it vanished out of sight. The remorse of my non-action has dimmed with the years, but the image that often flashes across my mind’s eye still brings laughter.

Another story is told of a young lady who found herself at the edge of a beautiful and refreshing country stream on a hot and humid summer’s day. The cool and rippling water tempted her beyond her ability to resist its soothing allure. Not having any bathing attire and being out in the middle of nowhere, she dared to enter the water with nothing on but a smile.

After some time of complete relaxation, she looked shoreward and noticed her clothing had disappeared. She had no idea that a young farmer boy had taken her clothes and thrown them into the bushes. Her anger caused the water to boil around her. She pleaded for privacy, but he just stood there grinning from ear to ear.

In desperation, she searched the bottom of the stream for some view obstructor for her emerging from the water. As though a prayer had been answered, her trembling fingers grasped an old rusted and discarded wash tub. With a new determination and much indignation, she held the wash tub in front of her and began to exit the water. By now her rage was beyond control and with a half screaming voice, she yelled at the still grinning boy, “Do you know what I think?” The boy in a slow country accent, smiling with honesty, excitedly answered, “Sure do. You think that there is a bottom in that wash tub.”

The laughter of the boy and the laughter of those who read this are at the expense of the young girl in the story. We were taught never to laugh at someone, but only to laugh with them. A vast majority of the time we can control our laughter, but there are times when it erupts uncontrolled and spontaneously.

A good hardy laugh seems to cleanse soul and spirit. Without occasional laughter, we cannot survive as coping members of modern society. Watching and reading the news, observing the antics of many public figures, and, oh yes, the countless actions provided by our politicians give us ample opportunities for depression and even panic. We often must laugh to keep from crying, but our laughter just may strike a spark of renewed determination of mind and spirit. A good laugh is sunshine on our darkest day.

There is no more rejuvenating sound than the sound of a baby’s uncontrolled giggling laughter. We should determine to laugh more, for in so doing, we remind ourselves not to take life too seriously. As long as we can laugh at ourselves, many of life’s greatest challenges can be met and overcome. A good sense of humor is often the best medicine for a joyful and fulfilled life. Laugh a little, listen intently, learn daily, and love a lot. At best, we are only here for a while; we might as well endeavor to enjoy life while we can.