2020's Thanksgiving may be different than it has ever been, but some of the same emotions are felt each year, and the sound of laughter continues to be comforting and bonding, even if we have to do it virtually, from a distance. This year I'll be hosting a drop-in Zoom meeting for my children, who live in other states, as well as other family members scattered around the US.
Below is my article from last year, encouraging you to add laughter to your celebrations and gatherings, however you hold them this year.
Thanksgiving can be a time of self-reflection, nostalgia, and for some, heartache. The person who no longer shares our table - through death, estrangement, or distance. The hurts, disasters and tragedies experienced since last Thanksgiving. Personal and global anxiety. Mixed emotions of the history behind our celebration.
Who knew that the sharing of a roasted bird, the bird that Benjamin Franklin wanted to declare America's official bird, would, so many years later, be marinated in so many feelings?
And while my hope is always that we gather and laugh together for bonding, healing, and comfort, I know that even laughter, can, like that turkey, be stuffed with many sentiments. And yet, I do encourage you to bond, heal, and find comfort during this emotional time of year. In fact, it is my wish for you that you expand your laughter to other holidays, gatherings, conversations, social media posts, and work life.
Laughter is the social bonding survival skill that has been with us since before humans had adequate language.
The very act of smiling helps pave the way to cooperation and understanding. In fact, the growing of the United States was helped tremendously by those of different origins and languages learning to smile at each other, even if they came from older traditions that discouraged smiles and laughter. I've read that "service with a smile" is uniquely American and it grew out of this need for the immigrants of many nations to communicate and do business. How many times have you gotten a survey from a business that included an area to rate the "friendliness" of the staff along with their efficiency? In an episode of "Brain Games" it was shown how a restaurant employee who was considered "friendly" was more often given back incorrectly calculated change than the employee who was considered "rude" or "indifferent."
Laughter over a shared meal can go a long way to create bonds of tolerance and understanding with strangers, and, yes, even with your opinionated relatives.
With my family and friends, there are just some stories and memories that we can't help repeating during these gatherings because the still make us laugh until we cry. Putting down the cell phones and pulling out some old school games has also produced the same group laughter, as well as fun with photo props. Even while remembering and grieving those no longer at the table, the retelling of funny, cute and endearing stories of them brings us smiles through our sorrow, especially because memories associated with laughter remain sharper in our brains.
And because the power of Laughter can both heal and hurt, I encourage you to use your powers for good. It is not always easy, and I have struggled with laughter in my life, at one time only seeing its weaponization. In a world of lightning quick social media reactions, and daily apologies that start with "I was only joking," it is wise to think twice before sharing that meme — any time of year, not just at holiday gatherings.
I wish you some smiles and laughter this Thanksgiving, because having fun together is truly something we can all be thankful for.
until next time, Don't Go Gently, Go Laughing!