I’m a giggler, no doubt about it. The kids I worked with learned pretty quickly that, no matter how intense I seemed most of the time, if they could get me cracked up, it was worth several minutes of giggling. I had a few swimmers in my career who I believe crossed my path for just this reason:  to lighten me up a bit.

I can’t begin to recount all of the funny things that happened at practices and meets, but a couple stand out. When I was doing my own swimming, one of my teammates loved to do funny things with the lap counter just to watch me burst into a laugh underwater and blow out all my air in a big burst of bubbles. One of my all-time favorites occurred while I was coaching an 8 & under practice:  little girl about 6 years old, swimming freestyle, kept grabbing her stomach with each stroke. I watched this for a few minutes, with growing concern, convinced there was a tummy ache of some sort, and (God forbid!) imminent throwing up.  I stopped her at the end of the pool, and asked,

“Do you feel OK? Does your tummy hurt?”
“Nooo….” was the confused response.
“Why do you keep grabbing your tummy?”
“I’m feeling my belly button.”
Needless to say, I fell out laughing.

Sometimes the best thing in the world to do is laugh. Those moments don’t come by often and  you need to grab them when they do. It’s been a hard week to do that. Between the suicide of Robin Williams and the shooting of yet another teenager leading to civil unrest and the seemingly never-ending death and destruction in the Middle East, it’s been a hard week to laugh. It’s been hard to even find things to laugh about.

But if I’ve learned anything it’s that times like now are THE most important times to laugh. Not at the tragedies, but in spite of them. We must seek and find the humorous moments, AND SHARE THEM. Laugh together with someone, laugh in that side-clutching, gasping way. Laugh hard enough to bring tears to your eyes. Laugh long enough to forget what got you started.

Laughter is the ultimate bonding experience with another human being….good laughter, positive (not mean, at-someone’s-expense) laughter, laughter from your gut….this is a deep down, wide open, vulnerable, joyful thing to share with another human being. Laughter does not ignore the pain, or say it doesn’t matter. Laughter doesn’t minimize the tragedy. Laughter bonds us when we need a bond, and gives us hope that things will get better. When they say that laughter heals, this is what they mean.

To all my swimmers (and my own children), thank you for the laughs we shared. Thank you for the hope you gave me. Thank you for the light you cast into my darkness. I hope I returned the favor.