"What the world needs now is love, sweet love" Jackie DeShannon's 1965 hit record spoke a great truth. The world always needs more love.
There's another thing the world desperately needs more of these days: laughter.
Laughter is something the Creator gave only to humans and he gave it to each of us. No matter how rich or poor we are, no matter our race or size, no matter what we can all enjoy laughter.
God gave us laughter for a good reason. Proverbs 17:22 says: "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." While some of us need more laughter than others, the most miserable people I know seldom laugh.
Antidepressant prescriptions have risen nearly 400 percent since 1988, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than one in 10 Americans over age 12 now takes an antidepressant.
Certainly most cases are well prescribed and I understand the necessity of these medications in many lives. I wonder, however, if a good belly laugh several times a day might improve the mental health of all of us.
Early psychiatric theories connected laughter with a release of aggression and hostility. Jokes and kidding were seen as ways to express forbidden ideas sometimes unconscious ones and to play-act antisocial drives.
Experts these days feel that incongruity lies at the core of humor. We are prepared for one thing and then something else happens. It startles us and our surprise is released in laughter. An unexpected word, story ending or gesture can surprise us and makes us laugh.
Many psychiatrists today view humor and laughter as valuable social tools simply because they allow people to relax, to let down their guard and become receptive to new situations.
Laughter comes easy for me. Our mother grew up in a family of great story tellers, pranksters and jokesmiths and Mom passed down these traits to her children.
It should be no surprise then that I believe laughter begins at home. In this day of political correctness, we can wonder if it's ever correct to laugh at anything. There is one thing that it is always safe to laugh at ourselves.
(Why are do the frugal Huismans have such large noses? Air is free!)
When I was a kid we lived for several years in Scandinavian communities. Norwegians have a sense of humor that would benefit every ethnic group. They laugh at themselves.
One of my colleagues at The Sioux City Journal was full blooded Norwegian as was a Rotary friend. One of the best gifts I could give either of them was an Ole and Lena joke they hadn't heard before.
I remember the first time I witnessed the healing power of laughter. After my maternal grandfather's funeral, my mother and her ten surviving siblings and most of their offspring gathered at my grandmother's rural home. Many of us were crowded in her small living room when my uncles and aunts began recalling stories of growing up in that large family during the Depression.
They told side-splitting stories of little sisters who found Oma's hidden bottle of brandy and got looped, of antics that occurred when their parents weren't home and many other funny anecdotes.
It wasn't long before I saw my grandmother smiling and then laughing.
What is this, I remember thinking? We just buried Opa and now everyone is laughing.
Then I realized what was happening. Laughter was beginning the process of healing the grief of the loss of a loved one.
It has been my experience that laughter is always just a step away from despair. How many times in our lives haven't we laughed when perhaps we should have been crying?
At the proper time and in the proper place, laughter can heal broken hearts and broken spirits. Laughter has an important place in our family and in our personal lives.
What the world needs now is love... and laughter.