In the humor programs I present nationwide, I
frequently share a letter I once saw in the
newspaper. It went something like this:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I am sorry that I have not written, but all my
stationery was destroyed when the dorm burned down. I
am now out of the hospital and the doctor said that I
will recover soon. I have also moved in with the boy
who rescued me, since most of my things were
destroyed in the fire.
Oh yes, I know that you have always wanted a
grandchild, so you will be pleased to know that I am
pregnant and you will have one soon.
Then there was a postscript:
P.S. There was no fire, my health is perfectly fine
and I am not pregnant. In fact, I don't even have a
boyfriend. But I did get a D in French and a C in
math and chemistry, and I just wanted to make sure
that you keep it all in perspective.
That is what humor is all about. It's not telling a
joke. It's not laughing at a joke. It is taking your
God-given sense of humor and using it to see your
difficulties in a new way.
Humor lends a fresh eye. It is like one of those
old-fashioned topsy-turvy drawings. You hold it one
way and you see a picture of a man who is sad. You
turn it around, and the man's beard becomes his hair,
his mustache becomes his eyebrows, and suddenly the
man is smiling -- the same picture, but when seen
from another angle it looks entirely different.
Expanding Our Point of View
When we can find some humor in our upsets, they no
longer seem as large or as important as they once
did. Humor expands our limited picture frame and gets
us to see more than just our problem. A sense of
humor provides a new perspective on our situation.
Charlie Chaplin once said, "Life is a tragedy
when seen in close-up but a comedy in long
shot." Mirth myopia is perhaps today's greatest
disease. We get so caught up in our everyday
struggles that we forget to step back and see the
comic absurdity of some of our actions.
"When my father missed a plane," notes
Cavett Robert, the founder of the National Speakers
Association to which I belong, "he caught
another one. When my grandfather missed a train, he
caught one the next day. Their world did not come to
an end. There were other trains and other planes.
Today, we miss one section of a revolving door and
our entire day is shot."
Like sheep that get lost nibbling away at the grass
because they never look up, we often focus so much on
ourselves and our problems that we get lost. We
forget to step back and see the larger picture. It is
our sense of humor, as one writer put it, that
provides "a God's-eye view" of our
When the naturalist William Beebe used to visit
President Theodore Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill, both
would take an evening stroll after dinner. Then one
or the other would go through a customary ritual. He
would look up at the stars saying, "That is the
Spiral Galaxy of Andromeda. It is as large as our
Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies.
It is 750,000 light-years away. It consists of one
hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun."
Then silence followed. Finally, one of them would
say, "Now I think we are small enough. Let's go
A little perspective, like a little humor, goes a