As a child growing up in South Africa I have a vivid memory of that little C5 size magazine called Readers Digest. Specifically I recall the section headed “Laughter is the best Medicine” and I regularly read the amusing anecdotes that followed. They were always very proper – nothing ever even remotely risqué, after all, this was good wholesome family reading. It was then that I realised that yes, the ability to laugh in the face of adversity is hugely restorative and goes a long way to putting this currently scary world to right, well at least in my head at any rate.
So in this context my son came home with an astonishing story. Last year, he spent 6 months in Paris as part of his away studies. His stay there coincided with the yellow jacket protests (mouvement des gilets jaunes) which occurred mainly over the weekends. Thank heavens I wasn’t aware at the time but my son and his friends, out of pure curiosity, used to go down to wherever the protesters were and, from a safe-ish distance, monitored proceedings. If I was aware of this at the time, I probably would have fainted, but this story comes long after the event.
So picture the scene. There is my son and his mates standing on the pavement a goodly distance from the riots. All of a sudden, the door of a large house opens and a very frail looking elderly couple slowly emerge and stand on the pavement, not far from my son’s party, and proceed to watch the goings on. My son, being a caring gentle soul, thinks: gee, I hope things don’t get out of hand – these two won’t be able to cope or be able get back indoors to safety fast enough. And of course the inevitable happened. There was a roar from the protesters as they scattered and a smoking teargas canister bounced down the road towards my son, his mates and more worryingly, the very elderly couple.
The youngsters knew it was time to move on – quickly, but what of the elderly couple? My son was about to go up to them and try to persuade them to get back to the safety of their house when the old lady tottered determinedly into the street towards the teargas. She stooped slowly, picked up the smoking teargas canister and then proceeded to totter, with equal determination, back to house. Once there, she opened her front door, chucked the canister into her entrance hall and slammed the front door closed before joining her husband back on the pavement to continue observing the protests. My son was gobsmacked and his face must have said it all because the old lady looked at him with a completely dead pan, matter of fact look on her face, she said “it deals with the cockroaches.”
My son told me this story whilst he was home over lock down. If I had known he had got close to the protest whilst in Paris, I would have been beside myself with worry but long after the event and the way he told the story, I roared with laughter. And suddenly the worry of everything going on the world didn’t seem quite so bad. So yes, laughter is the best medicine.