Sunday, August 26, 2007

What are You Laughing At?

Has the world really become that somber? I mean, I’ve noticed it before. The glum faces in malls and on the street. Faces blank. Lips drawn into straight lines. No pleasant crinkles dotting the eyes.

Yesterday I was in a busy store waiting for Hub. A young mother parked her shopping cart with her little guy sitting in it next to me. The little fellow was about three years old.

I find such pleasure in the beauty of children. Looking at them makes me smile and kind of bubble up inside. Looking at this little fellow, I broke into a smile, as I always do. I don’t generally speak to children because a) if they are extremely shy, it could upset them, and b) many parents aren’t comfortable with strangers forcing an exchange. So I simply glanced at him and of course seeing him made me smile.

But he was obviously not a shy boy. He looked at me directly and promptly said, “What are you laughing at?”

Rather caught of guard, I responded. “I’m smiling,” I said, “because you are such a handsome little man.”

His mother overheard and told him to say “Thank You” for the complement.

“Thank you,” he said, routinely, and then in a very serious tone, “But why are you laughing?”

Obviously my smile perplexed him, and for this I was sorry. But at the same time his response equally perplexed me.

Hub was done by this time and we left the store with me wondering if the world has become so somber that children think smiling is some kind of odd, suspicious, behavior.

Now as one plunges through life to the frailty of old age, many joys are minimized. The joy of rich food – or hot and spicy. The joy of physical exertion – shopping, sports, or even holidays. The joy found in competitiveness, challenges, and busy days. All these joys plummet. But the joy in children never minimizes one iota no matter how feeble, senile, or forgetful, one may become. Children are joy and they always bring joy. On my most worrisome day, when I am in a total funk, I still laugh and feel such joy when I see the grandchildren coming up the walk.

But still this occasion left me wondering. Surely wee children are not being led to believe that smiling is linked to laughing. And laughing is linked to ridicule. And because smiling and ridicule go hand-in-hand, everyone must take constant and sober care not to smile.


Jayne d'Arcy said...

It's rather sad to see something like this happen. Children are taught to be suspicious of strangers and adults have to watch their behavior around children.

The brief time I was a Teaching Asst. in the middle school several years back I actually had to attend a course where I was taught how to handle a student without touching him/her and never to interract with a student outside the classroom.

Joy Des Jardins said...

I'm as perplexed as you Roberta. That little guy needs to know the difference between laughing and smiling....both, by the way, are two beautiful joys of life. We need a lot more smilers out there.

Matty said...

Sad,isn't it? Is this what we're teaching our kids? That its wrong to have fun or look happy?
I am also amazed that when the nurses or drs hear me and my grandson laughing like loons in the hospital room..they always come in to ask 'what's so funny?' as if we need a good reason to laugh!

Pauline said...

Just keep smiling, you, and someday everyone else may just smile back. I thought it a compliment when I overheard one of my second graders describe me as the smiley one but now your comments here have me wondering if she thought it odd that I was happy?

Roberta S said...

Hi jayne, I agree it is sad. And obviously, if workshops as the one you have mentioned have become compulsory in some situations, there are others aware of the significance of this thinking and the need for a disaster-recovery plan -- ie. managing children without touching.

Roberta S said...

joy, indeed we do.

Roberta S said...

matty, it should have been enough for the nurses to hear you laughing for them to laugh too. Just to increase the healing dosage of the most effective medication for all ills -- laughter.

Their question sounds like a pervasion of the perplexity of the little guy in my story. But never mind them -- you and Grandson keep right on laughing and let them be as puzzled and confused as they want to be.

Roberta S said...

pauline, thanks for commenting. Perhaps 'smiley lady' you are a bit weird -- all full of joy and such!

All together now, let's laugh, let's smile, let's be weird.