Humor & Health

November 16, 2012 — 9 Comments

I had to have blood drawn today for an upcoming physical exam. It’s not one of my favorite things to do, but I consciously try not to allow my feelings to negatively affect the caregivers who provide these essential procedures for our wellbeing. (Trust me, dentists especially are sorely in need of our appreciation.) I often try to add a little smile to their day employing a touch of light humor.

Today, for example, I was repeating a blood test I had already accomplished earlier this week. When the corpsman (Naval hospital) asked which arm I said, “you better take it out of my left arm . . . they weren’t happy with the numbers in the sample they got from my right.”

Now, a modest joke like that won’t make it into any comedians’ monologues, but it did inspire a chuckle from the four of us in the lab at that moment.

It reminded me of getting my flu shot last year and having my choice of four different corpsmen to administer it. Each had a waiting line. I could only imagine what it was like to be puncturing one anonymous arm after another for eight hours. Most “victims” silent, but many grimacing and some feeling compelled to describe to you just how much they hate shots.

Three of the corpsmen were normal sized human beings. But the fourth was a behemoth. The seams of his uniform were near to bursting due to his extraordinary musculature. I doubt he was on steroids, but his massive figure could have fit into the offensive line of any team in the NFL. And, for some mysterious reason, his waiting line was the shortest.

When I approached him to receive my vaccination, I ventured (in a voice loud enough for his companions to hear): “I chose you because you look like you’re gentle.” Everyone got a laugh out of that, and I felt pleased at having momentarily brightened their day.

My kids are always wary when I make comments like this. They recognize that every time we open our mouths, it’s a gamble. We can achieve our goal, and elicit someone’s precious smile . . . or we can make a fool of ourselves.

As a grandfather, I have the added “protection” of not having too much expected of me, in the wittiness department. By the grace of God, I’m still in possession of the bulk of my mental capacities. I imagine that, should I live long enough, most of my attempts at humor may grow rather lame. But, if there remains any cultural respect for our elders, even these attempts will be recognized for what they are—goodwill. And, as such, there are those from whom they will still elicit a smile.

We should not be afraid of humor, especially in its most humble and intimate forms. Woven amidst the threads of our daily conversations, it enriches life.

C.S. Lewis recognized this quite well. In The Magician’s Nephew, which recounts the creation of Narnia, Aslan says to the newly anointed animals: “Laugh and fear not, creatures. Now that you are no longer dumb and witless, you need not always be grave. For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.”

Lewis notes something in Reflections on the Psalms that I too have found to be true. “A little comic relief in a discussion does no harm, however serious the topic may be. (In my own experience the funniest things have occurred in the gravest and most sincere conversations.)”

Because of this, it’s not uncommon when we sit with those who have lost a loved one, to find that the conversation often drifts towards those happy and humorous moments that were shared with the departed. I’ve heard much healing laughter in the still sorrowing presence of the grieving. And, whether the words or thoughts evoke bold laughter or simple smiles, I tend to consider them a good thing indeed.

9 responses to Humor & Health


    I’m 58, but whenever a needle approaches me I return to kindergarten. Could never be a junkie!

    From an ink smeared page November 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I love a chance to laugh – it changes the atmosphere at that very moment :)


    My grandfather (who would have been 100 this year if he hadn’t passed 3 years back) had wanted to be a doctor, but could not afford the schooling during the Great Depression. Instead, he convinced a nursing school that there was a need for male nurses, and so became the first male nurse to graduate from his university. He was an amazing man, and as he was nearing the end of his life he made arrangements to donate his body to a medical school. Shortly after this he looked over at my aunt, grinned mischievously, and said “I finally get to go to medical school!” That bit of humor was quite in character with him, and still makes me smile when I think of it.


    Yes, humor is healing to hurting hearts. And I love that you said that opening our mouths is a gamble. Boy, is that true!


    Humor is our only hope – (and if people would lighten up things are bound to get better)
    This post about the shots reminded me about stories my dad told about men getting their shots before going to the front in WW II. He said they had everyone lined up and would hit each with a needled both right and left before anyone them could open their mouths to say anything ( especially the officers). He said it was surprising how many big hulking men turned pale and looked ready to pass out at the sight of a needle.
    Thank goodness the delivery systems have improved a bit.
    Hope you have a great Thanksgiving


      I’ve known grown men who literally fainted when getting a shot. (Literally.) It’s not that uncommon a phobia. In fact, just now I was searching for the official name of the intense fear, and discovered that there are no fewer than four applicable phobias which can account for the condition:

      fear of injections, inoculations

      fear of being touched by a finger or pointed object

      fear of sharply pointed objects, especially needles.

      enetophobia (enetephobia)
      fear of pins, needles

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. C.S. Lewis & Humor – a 100% Politics Free Post « Mere Inkling - November 7, 2016

    […] Amen. We can all, whatever our vocation, do with an extra dose of hilaritas. After all, it’s good for your health. […]

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