15 April 2012

the glory and grace of giggles

most of us have heard the saying that 'laughter is good medicine'.

and while i tend to affirm the basic 'truthiness' of that claim (eat your heart out, W), i'm not sure that i like the imagery of it. for me, it's kind of like saying 'lobster is a good source of protein' or 'the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated is a good source of intelligently written articles'. both are true statements, but both leave out a huge factor of what can make them so exhilaratingly exciting to experience (in the former case, at least for people without shellfish allergies...in the latter, at least for heterosexually oriented men).

laughter IS 'good medicine'. but it is SO much more.

most of us spend a lot of our time slogging our way through life, describing what was created to be an indescribably invigorating experience as 'the daily grind'. we have SO many things on our to-do lists. and we are SO serious about not only getting those things crossed off, but also the way in which we go about crossing off said things.

watch most anyone driving to their work, or driving as their work, and what kinds of expressions to do see on their faces? the kinds of contortions that would make the Grim Reaper smile because it's clear there are more and more of us closer and closer to meeting him, and his job has been made infinitely easier.

observe almost anyone at a fitness club, and ask yourself, 'do ANY of these people look like they're enjoying themselves?' the people on the rowing machines might as well be captives on a Viking ship. those subjecting themselves to a spin class appear to be getting themselves ready for the cycling version of 'Death Race 2000'. and the poor people on the treadmills (yours truly very occasionally included) seem to be huffing and puffing away on a 'road to nowhere'. i'm just waiting for someone someday to be trapped on one and yell out, 'JANE! STOP THIS CRAZY THING! JANE! JAAAAAAAAANE!!!'

(okay, i just lost my under-40 audience with that last paragraph. NOTE for ALL under-40-years-of-age readers (all THREE of you): Google 'death race 2000' and 'the jetsons closing credits' and you'll be up to speed.)

i know that there are many elements of life that are 'good medicine' for our health and necessary opportunities/obligations to provide for our wealth (at least enough to keep us somewhat warm and semi-well fed). i guess that in the midst of it all (expounding on the title of the song from one of the most auspiciously articulate and artistic musical entities of the 70s/80s), i wonder...where has all the exhilaration, the invigoration, the outrageous and orgasmic celebration of the glorious adventure of life gone?

(under-40s crowd: Google 'van halen where have all the good times gone' and you're good to go.)

in a world where there are so many 'good medicines' out there, i wonder about the ways that we struggle to experience the parts of life that are more than just 'medicine'.

like magnificence and mystery.

like jubilation and joy.

like glory and grace.

and then i think of my eldest son, Ian.

by the standards of human society, Ian is a person with the 'dis-ability' of autism, and therefore, categorized as a young man with 'special needs'.

but by the standards of human specialness and spirit, Ian has been blessed with the 'ability' to perceive and engage life on a much simpler, yet incredibly profound level. and therefore, those of us who know him well would categorize him as a person with 'special gifts'.

by the time of morning that i am grumbling and stumbling out of my half-sleep from the night before, Ian has already awakened at the crack of dawn (or before) without the aid of an external alarm, and gotten himself washed, dressed, fed and ready for the bus to pick him up at oh-god-30 am for school (for which he usually ends up waiting 30 minutes or so to arrive).

and how do i know this, since this all happens whilst i'm still lulling in half-slumberland? because on several of those days, the reason that i'm only half asleep is because i'm awakened by a sound emanating from downstairs that has no business being made at that time of morning.

the sound of Ian singing.

and telling stories to himself.


and all of this lovely language coming from a person who couldn't even TALK until he was 8 1/2 years old, and still has somewhat limited expressive speech.

we live on an historic street in town, a thoroughfare that receives a steady (though not huge) amount of traffic throughout the day and evening. and while most families would consider this home location to be a dis-advantage, because of Ian, we have experienced it as a great advantage. this is not simply because we are in walking distance of an awesome downtown district, the beautiful river than runs through our city, and the university that truly provides the heartbeat for so much creativity and excitement to happen in our community. it is also because of how Ian has chosen to engage with the traffic that shuttles by day in and day out.

he doesn't just see a blur of motion and noise invading our residential space. he sees cars, buses, BIG trucks and motorcycles...and he relishes watching their every movement and revels in the sounds they make, sometimes imitating them as they roll on by. and the excitement builds up inside of him into such a sensory crescendo, he can't help but express it through shaking his hands and arms in a 'cheer', even sometimes jumping up and down with sheer joy.

he also sees the individual drivers, many of whom are making part of their daily commute to work or school. and in the midst of his 'cheers' and smiles, he will also sometimes wave at them as they drive by. and most of the drivers just don't know what to make of this young man who we have unofficially christened as our 'street greeter'.

some just drive right on by.

some wave back and smile.

some roll down their windows and shout out a greeting to him.

some even honk their horns (Ian gets a special kick out of that).

some have even become friends of his (who will stop and say hi to him when we're in town somewhere, and we'll ask him where he knows them, and he'll say 'from the street'...kinda gives a new, healthier perception to our usually derogatory term 'street person', eh?).

but they all are somewhat taken aback, and at least momentarily lifted out of their 'daily grinds' to experience a glimpse of their inherent glory and grace through an unexpected smile from an unexpected source.

and unsolicited clapping and cheering.

and gregarious, exceptionally 'gifted' GIGGLING.

as i write this, Ian is prancing about the house after lunch, grinning and dancing and patiently waiting for me to finish my writing so we can go to the YMCA.

and to answer my rhetorical question from above - 'does ANYONE look like they're having FUN whilst working out?' - i can say that i know at least ONE person who does. and he's dancing and prancing around my living room this very instant.

while i join the throngs of huffers and puffers suffering on the treadmill, Ian hops onto the treadmill next to me, sets the speed to whatever level i have mine set (SLOW), and starts walking...and then speeds it up when i start running. 

while i'm trying to keep some sense of sanity and interest by blasting my favourite propulsive and percussive music through my earbuds, my face alternating between looking straight out the window in front me and checking the timer below to see how much longer i must endure the torture, l always hear these silly and joyful little sounds coming from the treadmill next to me. and whenever i look over, there's Ian, staring right at me and laughing his head off.

while i'm diligently tracking my pace and distance, Ian is grabbing the handlebars and lifting his feet off of the conveyor belt, then placing them on the sides and watching the belt whirr and spin as he keeps adjusting the speed up and down, getting special satisfaction when it goes 'FAST FAST FAST!'

and several times during my suffering, he will reach out his hand to mine in the motion of a 'high five'. but when our hands meet, he will grab my hand and our fingers will interlock, and a BIG grin will light up his face with a reflection of the Glory and Grace that once set the face of Moses almost literally ablaze...the Love that came to set our hearts and the world on fire.

when i'm with Ian, and experience his unique and special way of embodying the radiance of that Love, i am reminded that we have been created to engage life not as stressed-out, shame-ridden creatures victimized by our dis-appointments and limited by our dis-abilities, but rather, as imperfect, glory-revealing, grace-giving children of the One who embraces life and all of us trying to live it with blessedness and belovedness, wholeness and holiness.

with magnificence and mystery.

with jubilation and joy.

and with gut-busting, grace-giving, uproarious and glorious GIGGLING.


  1. I love this! It filled my heart and sprinkled tears in my eyes. Thanks for the enviable insider's look at uproarious and glorious giggling, and the reminder about what life engagement can be.

  2. Thanks for sharing the wonder of Ian. I love this young man, who always brings a smile to my day! He's good for the soul. Marsha

  3. Amazing Brian!! Love this post and missing you both!

  4. Brian, This is an amazing article, the power of joy is so underestimated. I hope I have a chance to meet Ian someday.