Careful planning culminated in a two-car caravan to Panera Bread for a quick bite after church with an immediate departure to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. Those folks who hail from this neck of the woods know without saying what a big deal this annual event is. Trial rides stop traffic throughout the greater-Houston area. Volunteer commitments turn into lifetime traditions. I don’t know how many millions in scholarships have been awarded. I want to say it’s the world’s second largest rodeo. It is a Texas-sized big deal!
This year was extra special because my family was in town. My brother-in-law team ropes for sport, and their family has been involved with livestock of some form or fashion for as long as I can remember. The cousins were excited to be together doing anything, and Boompa and Bug (terms of endearment for my dad and his wife) completed the entourage. Bellies full, we headed for our wagons. Ride full, I back out and turn for the freeway. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of my sister and do a mental check. Everyone is where they’re supposed to be.
“Oh no, mother!” cries a daughter. “I don’t have my allergy medicine. What am I going to do?!?! I can’t be around all those animals. I won’t be able to breathe!”
Knowing she truly wouldn’t make it through the event without some sort of antihistamine, I concede, “Here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll pull off the freeway to the front of the Target that’s just ahead, and you can run…and I mean RUN…in to the store and get what you need.” Pulling to a stop, a unanimous chant rang forth from the peanut gallery: “Go, go, go!”
Waiting out front, the phone rings. “Heeeeyyyy, wus up?” I answer playfully. Music piping, kids chatting, it’s going to be a great afternoon!
“Where are you?” comes the reply.
“Oh, there’s no way this daughter will make it through the rodeo without allergy medicine. She’s allergic to short-haired animals, so I told her I’d stop so she could buy some medicine...yada, yada, yada…” I’m not sure, but I think I continued with quite a long-winded explanation.
“You left me!!!”
Without seeing her face, I could see her face. Thank God she was laughing!
“Are you serious?!? Oh my gosh! I am so sorry! Oh, Pam, I can’t believe I did that!!! It’s a good thing we stopped. We’re only a block or so down the road. I’m coming right back to get you!”
Shopper back in her seat, we reverse course for Panera Bread.
The phone rings again. “Hello?”
“I raised you better than to leave your sister behind!” Boompa teases, having a little fun at my expense.
There was nothing I could do but laugh at myself. I started to plead an, “I can’t believe I did that!” But really, I could believe it. I do mindless things like that all the time. Just ask my kids. I’m an endless source of live entertainment, and I’ve found the best antidote for embarrassment is learning to laugh at myself. So that’s what I did. And profusely asked my sister to forgive me!
When our foolishness, absentmindedness, or even simple humanness mortifies, laughter dispels despair. I’m not talking about laughing at other people. I’m talking about learning to laugh at ourselves. And tell on ourselves. It truly is the best way to combat condemnation, steal ammunition from those who might want to use it against us, and most important, mute the devil’s attempts to shame us over our mistakes.
One daughter, who must remain unnamed, came home from school one day absolutely horrified by something she did, which must remain unspoken. It was nothing bad or wrong, just very embarrassing for her. “What am I going to do, mother? You just don’t understand! How am I ever going to go back in there again?!?!” she despaired. Being the tender, loving mother I am, I chuckled as she told her story. She was so cute as she confessed the humiliating event. After consoling her, because she was genuinely upset about what happened, I gave her my best advice: “When things like this happen, the best thing you can do is learn to laugh at yourself!”
Proverbs 15:13 says, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” Likewise, Proverbs 17:22 tells us, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.”
Embarrassing situations, if blown out of proportion in our own minds or by others, can bring sorrow to our hearts and break our spirits. Laughing and telling on ourselves produces a merry heart, for the bearer and hearer. I can’t tell you how many endorphins my friend Jill has produced in me as she retells her embarrassing moments. It’s the best entertainment ever! And the stories never get old. She is a master at laughing at herself, because like me, she provides herself with ample material.
So she’s the first one I called after making a complete fool of myself at the bank drive thru. Becoming invisible would not have been radical enough at that moment.
Even though I was already running late, I stopped to make a deposit. I truly have the slowest bank in the entire world, and this day was no different. Irritation stirred the longer I waited. The speaker came to life: “Mrs. Wallace, you added your deposit wrong, so I’m going to change the total and send it back for your signature.” Great! I said to myself. A longer delay. “That will be fine, thank you.” I initialed the change, returned the slip, and waited.
And waited. And waited.
The speaker cracked again, “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Wallace, but your first total was correct. I miscalculated. I’ll have your cash out to you right away.” Excellent. A light at the end of the tunnel! Let’s just get this done so I’m not later than I already am. The tube whined, I grabbed the canister, took my cash, and prepared to pull away, first counting the money. A $20 bill was missing. Window rolled back down, patience expired, blood boiling, I pressed the “Call” button, still attempting to keep my cool.
“Yes, Mrs. Wallace?”
“I’m missing $20,” I declared.
“I don’t see how that’s possible, Mrs. Wallace. I counted the money exactly," to which I graciously replied: “Given the fact that you miscalculated my deposit, do you not think it’s possible that you’ve made a mistake with my cash back?” Remaining firm, he answered, “I don’t see how that’s possible. Just one moment. Let me recount my drawer.”
Are you kidding me???? I thought to myself. Recount his drawer!?!? Settling in, I knew it was going to be a while longer. This time a woman’s voice broke the silence. “Mrs. Wallace, I’m sorry it’s taking so long, but my teller counted his drawer, and I recounted it as well, and it’s correct. The only thing left to do is watch the security tapes after we close this evening.” Past my whit’s end, I huffed, “Fine, do that, and for your information, I will be closing all of my accounts!”
Shoving the gear into drive, foot on the gas, my youngest daughter who witnessed the entire drama from the back seat, asked, “Mommy, what’s that under your leg?” Yep. You got it. The $20 bill!
Deflated, I determined in my mind I would simply slink to my next stop without a word and never set foot in that bank again. To crawl in a hole would not even have begun to make me feel better! However, I would have preferred it to what happened next. The phone rang. “Hello?” I answered. A woman’s voice responded, “Mrs. Wallace, this is so-and-so from the bank. I’m sorry to bother you, but you forgot to sign one of your checks.”
Not only was my slinking plan averted, but I had to IMMEDIATELY show my face again. Head bent, pride bruised, and heart convicted, I proceeded into the lobby, approached the very teller I had accused of ruining my banking experience, and simply asked him to forgive me for acting so inappropriately. Not my proudest moment.
We are not alone. We all have moments that send us diving for cover. Lighten up. Make another person’s day. Tell on yourself, and then laugh.
“All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15). I most certainly do!
Lord, give us discernment for the various twists and turns of life, and give us the ability to laugh off the embarrassing moments that threaten to break our spirit as we learn to be wholly Yours even when we blow it.