“Fire! The house across the street is on fire! Quick come and look out the window.”
Young Anna ran from her bedroom to the front room of the house and stared out into the street. No smoke, no flames. And then, in a devilish manner her father proclaimed, “April Fools!”
It was a dirty trick to play on a young kid, especially my mother. But all is fair in love, in war and on April Fools’ Day. My mother remembers that prank to this day. And though she might have missed a heart beat on that day, now, 70 years later, she tells the story of the prank with a big smile on her face. In fact, it’s now become part of the family folklore to play the “Grandpa April Fools’ Prank” on the First.
April Fools is a lighthearted “feast.” Obviously, there’s no holiday or national mandate to celebrate it, but in many cultures people stop to have a mischievous go at fooling people. In fact, companies even get into the spirit with pranks that are sometimes so believable they attract a following. For instance, in 1998 Burger King published a full page ad in USA Today announcing a new item on their menu: The Left-Handed Whopper. They claimed it was designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. The twist? The burger included all the same ingredients as the original Whopper but the condiments were rotated 180 degrees! Thousands of customers went into restaurants to request the new sandwich, while many others requested the “right handed” version!
As a kid, when I thought of my grandfather playing the fire-trick on my mom as well as his entire family, I never really understood how could a grown man do this? After all, this was grandpa and pranks are for kids. But as I grew older, I was more intrigued that he engaged in this type of humor considering he was a genocide survivor. Only 20 years earlier, he had seen the devastation of his country, family and home. He built a new life on the ashes of devastation, hardship and despair. And yet… when it came time to play, he could play with the best. He smiled and laughed. As a kid, I remember his contagious laugh as I sat in his lap and watched the 3 Stooges on TV.
Humor is so important to a healthy lifestyle and a necessary ingredient to healing. Sometimes our hardships are so great that we think we may never laugh or smile again. I think of the generations which witnessed the most absurd and heinous of all crimes, genocide, and yet they are able to rebound with a smile and a laugh. In that humor they found a new beginning – the possibility to hope and dream again.
Children come into this world believing and hoping. It is for this reason they smile and laugh. Today is the day to connect to that primal hope and faith. Don’t look too far, it’s inside of you. No matter how bad things get, find some time to smile and laugh. And if you can, laugh out loud!
Today’s mediation is on humor. Think of anything that makes you smile or makes you laugh. If it’s difficult, close your eyes and revert to a good time in your life. Perhaps you can remember the first time you met your child and tears came down your face because of joy! Think of a play or a movie, let it be primitively absurd, slapstick, or sophisticatedly jocular, witty. Let it induce a smile on your face. Now hold it right there. Hold the thought and your smile. Did you feel that? For that moment, as brief as it was, nothing else really mattered. Now understand that the change was your doing. You decided and you brought about an end to your pain and a joy to your heart.
This is Fr. Vazken, assuring you that today’s message was not an April Fools’ joke, and to be certain, join me again tomorrow as we continue on the Road to Healing.