Monday, September 20, 2010

He Who Laughs Last...

I want to talk about an interaction that the janitor of my building, Keith, and I had today. Before I begin, let me paint a picture of Keith.

Keith is the classic janitor archetype (the good one). He's an older man, somewhere in his late 50s. Has a full set of hair that's fading from the blond of his youth. He's the older guy that has a variety of stories to tell and the longer you know him, the more likely you are to be able to recite them because he never hesitates to retell it. He's the guy who always has something nice to say to people as they pass.

So, Keith and I have a ritual that we participate in almost every Monday thru Friday. I'll get to work and head straight to my office. As I go through emails or try to organize my desk, Keith will inevitably make his way to my door. Depending on how much he's accomplished that morning, he'll either take a seat and relax or stand in the doorway, ready to head on to the next task.

This morning Keith stood in the door, so I knew this would be a shorter ritual. Keith, for all of his good nature, sometimes complains about work. He will say things like, "This janitor business is getting old" or "I think I'll take the rest of the year off," but we know, as does he, that he's not going anywhere. Today, he begins that same dance, "You know what, Chin-man (yeah, that's my nickname), this work is getting old." I reply with something to the effect of we can only take it one day at a time. He says, "You're right about that. But still, I'm thinking of changing it up. I think I'll either retire or die" and immediately starts laughing!

At first I was a taken aback! I mean, who speaks so glibly of their own demise?! And its not like he's resigned to death, quite the contrary. Keith will often come by and we'll talk about our plans for the rest of our lives. I quickly recovered and and we laughed together.

Things like this remind me of how powerful a laugh is and how important it is to do it often. Laughter is the first defense we develop against pain and suffering. Have you ever seen a child fall and get hurt? As they sit there, not quite crying, someone would laugh and the child decides to laugh instead of cry. It's not necessarily that the fall didn't hurt, but the child used laughter to ride through the pain. Now, I don't think Keith believes that he'll keel over anytime soon, but, in my opinion, what we are able to laugh at today, prepares us to laugh tomorrow.

I think of life like an ocean; sometimes calm, sometimes choppy. In this ocean, there are three people trying to keep their heads above water and make it to the other side. One person has no sense of humor, and has to swim across; one person has an ok sense of humor and is equipped with an innertube; the last person has a good sense of humor and is sitting in a boat. In a storm all will feel the turbulence, but the swimmer will quickly find himself overcome, the 2nd will struggle greatly to stay afloat, and though the boat will rock with the waves, the boatman will ride on top. Then, when the water calms, the 1st may swim back to the surface, the 2nd will find his innertube and continue, but the boatman will have stayed afloat, dried off, and moved farther across the ocean.

I hope you've learned something today. Ladies and gentleman, you need to get a boat! ;)



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