Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. ~Mother Teresa
I was reminded of the importance of humour from attending a presentation of Dr Peter Spitzer of the Clown Doctors the other evening. http://clowndoctors.org.au
The Clown Doctors are most well known for their work in the area of children and hospitals. More recently they are applying that knowledge and background to the care of people who are living with dementia in residential care environments and this work is currently being rigorously researched and evaluated.
Now I have to say, despite being a great fan, I admit to being somewhat sceptical about the application of “slapstick” humour in people living with advanced dementia. I had a little discomfort about this and wondered if it could be considered to be patronising or infantilising in some way. Seeing the application of this work in action though clearly dismissed any misgivings I may have had. To see the captivating, engaging and genuine smiles in people living with a mass of tangles and plaques was infectious (in the nicest possible way).
There is no question that the environments within which we work are often difficult. The aged care industry is often filled with frustrations, numerous and quite pervasive inequities and underlying sadness’s, much of which can actually be mitigated with the introduction or perpetuation of humour.
As a consequence of the presentation I was forced to reflect on the impact of humour in my own life. Laughter is a joy to me and a solid foundation of my life. Humour though does sometimes act as both a friend and a foe. Sometimes it is undertaken to make others feel better, sometimes used to hide more lurking and evasive feelings behind.
Never the less the presentation also prompted me to reflect on the final days of relationship with my Dad. Despite him being in an obvious and heartbreakingly painful dying process, humour and laughter continued to pervade our interactions.
A note from my diary reads….
Watching us gather around you ….depending on you to make us laugh…Depending on you to take our pain away…And you do…As you have always done. You make us laugh out loud.
The boys share a beer with you – propped up in your hospital bed…waiting for the important pain numbing drugs to take effect …the drugs that will nurse you to your now expected death. I look around and see joy, laughter and appreciation for all that you have been to us.
You have your beer through a straw…and continue to tell jokes …to be the iconic Aussie lad that you are …..and then you sing to us “close your eyes and I will kiss you” with Adam your beloved grandson, (representing all the grandbabies) laughing out loud…But taking that bottle and saving it for an eternity….knowing it was the last beer shared with his beloved pa.
This was his gift to us and our reciprocal gift to him…laughter humour and joy. This was a humour demonstrated love. A powerful love that could transcend the pain and the hurt because it was such an important part of the relationship we had always had with him. A reminder yet again that humour should never be withdrawn, even in times of such pain and hurt.
So thank you Clown Doctors for reminding me of these things
So how can you use this information to influence the environments within which you work?
The Mantra for you and for me this week:
- This week I will smile more (and as the Dalai Lama says – keep smiling and others will come to you)
- This week I will influence the smiles of others and on a daily basis do something with an intention that brings a smile to another’s face.
- Every day I will reflect on the impact of laughter and joy in my day
And how will you know you have succeeded
- You will feel more love
- You will be surrounded by more love
For an additional slant on the power (and potential spirituality) of laughter have a look at ; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we_iR9BWBcw&feature=player_embedded#t=166s
Ahhhhhhh the joy of laughter….xx