Earlier this week on my tube train home there was a delay (those of you who have any experience of the London Underground or commuting will instantly understand what I mean). We were all sitting in the train and it was between stations, and it suddenly stopped.
After a period of silence we heard the train loudspeaker – and we’re expecting some lame excuse in PC language which you often get, saying the train will be delayed and is being held at signal.
No. Instead we get a man with a strong cockney accent saying this: The train will start moving again, then stop very violently at a red signal not long after. Yes, he actually said that outloud. We all look at each other quizically – but then it happens. A small move forward and we stopped very suddenly.
I smiled. It was kinda funny.
Then it happened again. He said the exact same thing and it happened exactly the same.
My smile got a bit larger. I caught the eye of a woman on the train opposite me and we both just smiled.
I looked up and down the train and there were a few smiles. But it was the minority view. Others were grumpy, scowling or hiding inside their own worlds. Probably annoyed their journey home had been disrupted.
Then, unbelievably, it happened a third time. This time just before a station. We stopped and started half in and out of a station.
This time I could hardly contain myself. I sat there and I just couldn’t stop smiling. Part of me wanted to laugh outloud, and I saw the other people I’d caught the eye of and their smiles were getting wider too. We were all sharing the joke.
I looked around and many others still weren’t smiling. I actually began to think they were annoyed with me and the others who were.
As this all transpired, and I noticed the reactions of different people, something began to dawn on me.
So many of us take everything in our life so seriously, we’ve forgotten how to laugh at life. Or maybe, even worse, we never have. (Tweet that here)
Confession – I used to take everything seriously. Sometimes I still do. But time, experience, and some good friends have mellowed me out. Now I’m pretty good at laughing at myself, and life.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not at all saying we should make a joke out of everything. We must take responsibility for our lives. There are issues and dimensions to life and faith we need to be serious about.
But there are times we must be able to laugh. I lost my Mum 12 years ago – but if I spend all my time being serious about it, it’s too depressing. Totally unnecessary too.
I prefer to think of the best memories of my Mum’s life. Including the times she did silly things, the times she made me laugh and made a fool of herself. I remember doing this not long after she died – and it was so big a part of the healing process.
Smiling in the sorrow.
There’s a time to take things seriously – and there’s a time to smile. Sitting on a train in these circumstances, isn’t a time to take it too seriously. There’s plenty of things going on in the world which are much worse.
The people who laughed on the train got this – and to me, it was a sign they may well have been to darker places, and maybe been able to smile in their sorrow.
As a result, they can smile at lesser problems, because they have a bigger perspective.
If we don’t laugh at life, if we don’t have joy – smiling even through sorrow, we will end up becoming cynical and depressed. We’ll have a very negative view of the world.
Truth is, in comparison to losing a relative, a delayed train with a man with a cockney accent really isn’t that bad. In comparison to being violently attacked, a delayed train is nothing.
You see, when we suffer, eventually, there comes a moment where we come to terms with what has happened. Where we look back on our pain and smile despite it. We discover joy, even in darkness.
So when events like what happened on this tube train take place, I smile. Because in the big scheme of things, it’s hilarious. Because some things are more important.
Because sometimes, we need to smile in the sorrow.