November 23, 2010
This month, I went to the Laity Lodge in the Texas hill country to speak to
mental health chaplains
about methods to relieve stress in their lives.
One of the talks I gave was about the numerous studies on the benefits of
laughter to reduce stress.
For instance, there are physical benefits of laughter that include boosting
the immune system,
circulation and improving cardiovascular health.
To get these benefits, it is sometimes necessary to force the laughter. I
started our retreat by asking six
chaplains to give their best Santa Claus laugh. We made a contest of it, and
a few of their laughs made
you feel you were in Santa's workshop.
So, with the pump of frivolity fully primed, I shared with them some of the
stories I've shared with you in
I told them how humor helped me in the midst of a difficult deployment to
the Middle East. The humor
came at my expense when I dropped my Air Force officer's cap into a toilet.
Since it carried my name and a Christian cross, I was obliged to retrieve
the soiled cap. The funniest part
came, however, when I went to requisition a new hat from our senior chaplain
As I stood explaining my predicament, the master sergeant bent over,
slapping both his knees.
"Give me one good reason," he said, "that I should get you a new hat after
you made such a dumb
Well, I explained, "There are a few bad officers who carry a hat full of
crap, but it takes a really good
officer to admit it."
With that remark, the sergeant fell prostrate, hysterically beating the
floor with his fist.
"I give up, chaplain," he declared. "You got your new hat."
When I wrote that column, I got a hand-written letter from a reader who
asked me not to share that kind
of bathroom humor. I'm sorry I offended her, but I have to say in my own
defense I'm sure Jesus would
have laughed hysterically over that one.
Finally, I reminded my chaplain audience of the emotional benefits of
laughter by telling them it
reduces stress, anger and anxiety. It improves mood, optimism and emotional
intelligence. But the
best thing about laughter is it can get you off your backside and unstuck.
The point is well-made in the humorous poem that I read to myself whenever I
need a little encouragement to stop feeling sorry for myself and move
The poem is a parody of the famous poem, "Footprints in the Sand" by Mary
Stevenson (Zangare) that describes the promise of God to "never leave
The parody is called, "Buttprints in the Sand," author
"One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.
But then some strange prints appeared
And I asked the Lord, 'What have we here?'
Those prints are large and round and neat,
'But Lord, they are too big for feet.'
'My child,' he said in somber tones,
'For miles I carried you along.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.'
'You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know,
So I got tired, I got fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt.'
'Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their buttprints in the sand.'"
- Norris Burkes is a former civilian hospital chaplain and an Air National
Guard chaplain. Write
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit thechaplain.net. You can also follow him on
Twitter - user name is
"chaplain" - or on Facebook at facebook.com/norrisburkes