Let My Laughter Resound!
PRANKS, PRANKS, AND MORE PRANKS!
Rev. Edgar Holmes Humphreys was the pastor of the Free Methodist Church at Fountain, Colorado, during my teen years, and it was this man who ‘took me under his wings’, to disciple me in the truths of Christianity. I spent much time with his son, Art, whom I considered to be my ‘best friend’ during my difficult adolescent years.
Art was a rather impulsive, high strung teen, but he was a ‘real companion’ to me. In fact, he was the only ‘close friend’ that I enjoyed during those years of my life – years in which my own emotional life was sometimes far from ‘stable’.
Art seemed to really enjoy me, and I really enjoyed him. He was a ‘real pal’ to me. He was ‘fun-loving’, spiritually-minded, talented, and a loyal friend to me. He was a ‘leader type’ person, so I tended to listen to his many suggestions and his creative ideas.
He, like most teens, could demonstrate, at times, unstable behavior, but, nevertheless, Art had a commitment to Christ, and a commitment to a life of integrity. Art admired his minister father, and he, along with myself, often ‘sat at the feet’ of his father, to listen and to learn from the lips of a mature man (a man who was scholarly, yet practical, in his approach to the ‘way of holiness’). I loved to spend a lot of time in Art’s home, and I cherished Art’s dear parents.
It is true that Art was a serious-minded Christian teenager. He and I talked, at times, about the things of the ‘Christian Faith’. We prayed together, and he and I and a few other teens prepared ‘creative programs’, to ‘present’ to the small Sunday evening congregation at our small local church. Art (along with his two sisters) was very musical. He had a great voice, and he sang heart-moving solos, occasionally. I loved to hear him sing.
Even though I did not consider myself to be a ‘singer’, Art encouraged me (persuaded me) to sing duets with him! I didn’t really ‘know music’, but finally I consented to sing (in public) a certain song with him. I only knew how to sing the ‘lead’ part, but (believe it or not) we two sounded ‘quite professional’ together! (Ha!) “l Heard an Old, Old Story” was the song that we found enjoyment in singing together!
When today I hear someone sing that particular (old) song, my mind goes back a half century to the little white church on the corner, near downtown Fountain, Colorado, where Art and I blended our teenage voices, to tell of the wonders of God’s grace (highlighted in that song)!
So many years have come and have gone, since those heart-warming days – days when I found great pleasure in the home of a godly minister and his family! A period of time – approximately six years – when I spent much time with my loving, though impulsive, friend! “Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul.” Years of great spiritual growth, years of intellectual stimulation, years of friendship!
I really loved my ‘close friend’ (Art), and I know that he, more than any other teen, influenced me during my growing up years (as a teenager). Art was warm and personable and friendly and affectionate (he was the ‘touchy type’ person).
He expressed a lot of affection towards me. He naturally ‘touched’ persons (on their shoulders) when he talked to them. It was easy for him to ‘hug’ persons, as an expression of his love and affection and admiration for others. He was popular with some persons, for he was overwhelming in the affirming words that he verbalized to his friends and to his relatives.
He was an outgoing, extroverted type of person. He sometimes was both the ‘laughing’ and the ‘laughable’ person in a group setting. He felt comfortable in social settings, and sometimes he liked to take ‘center stage’ in social gatherings. It was natural for him to laugh at his own jokes, or to laugh at the jokes of others.
Along with all the positive qualities in him (and there were many), Art could, at times, be mischievous and a little ‘too playful’! He tended to be so spontaneous in his approach to life, that he found it difficult to be disciplined in the pursuit of worthy goals. He was very ‘smart’, but he tended to leave things to the ‘last minute’, rather than properly to plan for the future. He loved to have a ‘good time’, and he loved to be a ‘jokester’.
He was compassionate towards people, but he tended ‘to ride on the wave of pleasure and joviality’. He loved a good joke, and he loved to laugh and laugh. He sometimes had a hard time finding a ‘balance’ between the serious pursuits of life (like studying) and the lighter moments of life (like fun and entertainment).
I, who was a serious-minded person, enjoyed being around him (for the most part), for he brought a certain ‘lightness to my spirit’ and a well-needed laughter to my lips. However, there were times when I felt he went ‘overboard’ on the ‘light side’ of life, to the exclusion of the more ‘serious side’ of life!
Art was one year behind me, in schooling. When I graduated from high school in 1962, I enrolled as a freshman at Central College, McPherson, Kansas. When Art graduated from high school the next year (1963), he expressed a desire to attend Central College, and he requested that he become my college roommate. That sounded ‘fine’ to me, so I consented.
Little did I know what I was ‘getting into’ when Art became my roommate! Art had the intellectual ability to excel academically at Central College. But, it seemed that often, during his first year at college, Art’s ‘ playful side’ overtook his ‘serious side’.
Of course, even though I had been his friend during our junior high and senior high years, I knew that I could not ‘probe’ into his personal academic life. But, from my limited perspective as his roommate, it was quite obvious that Art lacked the kind of discipline that he needed, if he were to succeed academically. I think he nearly ‘flunked’ some of his courses!
I knew that Art enjoyed playing ‘pranks’ on his friends, so I was not very surprised when I (his roommate) became, on occasion, the ‘brunt of his jokes’. Some jokes that were played on me may have been originated by other students. Even though I was only 18 years old at the time, I was assigned the responsibility, as third floor dorm assistant, to ‘check in’ all the fellow students on my third floor.
This included, not only the several college students who were approximately my age, but also the handful of high school students who also were members of the student body enrollment. (For several years, there was a small high school on campus that coexisted with the college student body).
Several of those high school boys happened to live on my dorm floor. I think some of these students were ‘troubled students’ whose frustrated parents decided to send them away from their home, to a place where their teens might be reformed.
The very nature of my somewhat disciplinarian role as a ‘watchdog’ of all the students (making sure that all the students on my entire floor were in their room by 10:00 p.m. every week-day night) – I say, my ‘role’ as an overseer and disciplinarian, obviously, ‘drew some fire’ from my fellow students on my third floor! A few students (especially a few rebellious high school students) gave me some ‘hassles’ (resistance), but, most of the students cooperated with me, and I enjoyed a good relationship with almost everyone!
However, since I was the dorm floor assistant, I was a ‘ready-made target’ for a few ‘creative pranks’! Because I was his long-time friend (and presently his college roommate), Art had to ‘join in on the fun’ – ‘at my expense’! Art (the fun-loving person that he was) could not ‘resist the temptation’ to ‘deliver a few pranks’ to me! I never knew who the ‘culprit’ was when I surprisingly became the recipient of some of the pranks.
I won’t accuse my roommate as the ‘culprit’ for all my pranks, for I am sure that other students on my floor were in on some of the ‘tricks’. However, Art liked to be identified as the ‘trickster’, when it came to the pranks he ‘played’ on me. At least a couple of the pranks were readily identified as the ‘work of my roommate’. Art loved to laugh when I was ‘caught’ in the midst of a prank – a prank that he had skillfully ‘pulled off’. Art’s creative brain worked to my disadvantage! Ha!
I knew that Art liked me (actually, I think he loved me), so I ‘went along with his fun’ (at my expense). Thank God, I never got angry or distressed when I became the object of some person’s pranks! I took the pranks ‘in graceful style’, and I joined the laughter of the prankster! Yes, I took the pranks gracefully, although some of the pranks brought some discomfort to me!
One evening, Art and I were relaxing in our dorm room, carrying on a casual conversation. Posing as the very ‘innocent’ and hospitable and generous person, Art offered me a sandwich. I thought that gesture on his part was a gesture of kindness, so I gladly accepted his ‘gift of a sandwich’.
My first bite into the sandwich soon revealed that he was playing a prank on me! Instead of the sandwich containing salad dressing (a delicious spread), the sandwich was layered with soap! The taste was horrible! Immediately, as I spit out the bite, Art laughed and laughed! Of course, I soon entered into his ‘jovial spirit’. He thought it was so ‘cool’ that he had ‘tricked me’! I did have to admit that he was rather ‘creative’ in his design of a sandwich to ‘fool’ (trick) me!
On another occasion, his creativity in designing an instrument of trickery was manifest, when I entered my dorm room, rather late on a week-end night (probably Friday night). During my sophomore year at college (which was Art’s first year), I was spending more and more time with a young lady – a young lady who eventually ‘won my heart’ altogether (the lady who eventually became my wife). I did not ‘date’ heavily, but occasionally I enjoyed spending time with Venita.
I will admit that the contraption (mechanism) that Art constructed (as a prank) was amazing! To this very day (after more than 50 years), I don’t yet know the dynamics of this contraption (unique devise). The devise was attached to the top of the door (not visible, of course, from the side of the door that I would see when I approached my room). Attached to the top of the inside of the door, there was an upright can, full of water. This can of water then flipped over to release all the water on the head of the person who entered the room! When I opened the door, the can automatically flipped over, and I got an unwanted shower of cold water! A surprise of surprises when I opened my door, late that Friday night!
Can you imagine the ‘hilarious laughter’ that erupted from the mouth and lips of Art Humphreys, when I was dashed with water, as soon as I entered my room! Art had waited for some time, in our dorm room, just to see the surprised expression on my face, when I (rather listless) opened the dorm room door!
I remembered this ‘prank’, after more than 50 years since it happened during my sophomore year of college! How long do you suppose Art remembered this prank? (It is too long of a story to recount in this book, but, sadly, Art was not able to remember that ‘prank’ as long as l, good-heartedly, remembered it, for Art died from cancer when he was probably in his 40’s).
Who were the ‘culprits’, I never knew, but there are a couple other ‘incidences’ that brought me the opposite responses – both distress and laughter.
Unlike my dear mother who definitely was a ‘perfectionist’ in her over-all lifestyle, but, particularly, in her homemaking habits, I tend to be, not unclean, but, nevertheless, rather ‘random’ in my lifestyle. When I say that I am ‘not unclean’, that statement is not totally accurate. As a student – intent on getting ‘good grades’ – I sometimes did not concentrate on washing my clothes as often as I should have! There was a special (odd) feature in the old-fashioned dorm room where I lived for several months.
The closets in these rooms were rather unique. The closets were both wide and very deep (probably 6 feet deep). Like a ‘large hole’ (a large rectangle, maybe 3 feet by 6 feet in dimension), with no door to confine the closet. Of course, it was like an ideal (large) ‘store room’ where I could deposit all my ‘dirty clothes’!
This storage area had a large capacity, so I could deposit lots of ‘dirty clothes’ in that convenient space. Admittedly (and I have no excuse), I piled my ‘dirty clothes’ into that large area, and many days (weeks?) passed by before I bundled up the ‘dirty clothes’ to take them some place to get them washed.
One day I began to admit to myself that I was ‘overdue’ in giving adequate attention to my ‘dirty clothes’. I admitted that I had become too preoccupied with other (important) matters, and that it was definitely time for me to pull out the dirty clothes, and to do what any responsible student does – wash his clothes!
With a certain degree of shame, to myself, I admitted that my ‘dirty clothes’ were getting so ‘smelly’ that the smell was actually permeating my entire dorm room! My irresponsible negligence was becoming very inexcusable! What would my mother think – a mother that was particular in everything she did, and who was committed to utmost cleanliness? I would not want her, presently, to scrutinize my dorm room! She would (kindly) suggest that I regularly ‘wash my clothes’!
The time had finally arrived for me to pull out all those ‘dirty clothes’ (not a ‘pleasant task’), and get those ‘stinky clothes’ washed! Why have I waited so long to do this ‘basic task’, and why did I have to endure the increasingly ‘foul smell’ that had been permeating my room for several weeks? I delighted myself that I finally was doing a ‘task’ that I hated – pulling out my many clothes that I had ‘stuffed’ into this ‘hole’ (called my closet)!
I came to the end of the ‘hole’, and I had removed all my ‘stinky clothes’, and, to my great surprise, I discovered at the very end of my ‘hole’ (closet) a ‘plastic container’ – a container with a lid that sealed the plastic container! I thought to myself, “What in the world is this plastic container? It does not belong to me?” I was baffled by this container! I knew that the container contained something! But what?
As any other person would do, I did! I took off the lid to the container. But what a mistake I made, when I removed the lid to the container! Inside the container was ‘rotten fish’! As soon as I removed the lid of the container, the foul smell of the rotten fish, permeated the surrounding atmosphere! The odor of the rotten fish was the very odor that I had been smelling for quite some time, and, all along, I had imagined that the foul smell in my room was the foul smell of my dirty clothes!
With considerable shock, I took the container (that was the source of the ‘sickening odor’), and I dashed down the steps, from the third floor to the first floor, and I exited the old dorm building, and I quickly found a ‘dumping place’ where I ridded myself of the ‘rotten fish’! Just one ‘small problem’, however. While I was dashing down the steps of the three-story dormitory, I was leaving behind the permeating odor of the ‘rotten fish’. My gift of a new fragrance to all my fellow students in my dormitory!
A ‘prank in the same category’ happened to me, at a different time. Again, I noticed a strange ‘odor’ in my dorm room. Again, I thought that the ‘washing of my clothes’ was overdue. I would be ashamed if anyone came into my room, and would be nearly overpowered by the ‘terrible odor’ in my room.
I was raised by a mother who was committed to utmost cleanliness, so why am l, her son, so sloppy when it comes to keeping a ‘clean room’? I knew that uncleanness is inexcusable! I need to be more ‘conscientious’ regarding my ‘home keeping’ responsibilities!
I knew that the ‘atmosphere’ of my dorm room needed a ‘transformation’ (a change), and I knew that my clothes needed to be washed ‘on a regular schedule’. Oh, to be more disciplined!
One day, while I stretched out on my simple bed (to relax and to rest), I happened to be staring at the ceiling of my room. I noticed a rather strange shadow made by some object – an object that was lying in the light shades, at the center position of the ceiling! What a strange shadow in the shade, caused by some object that was lying in the shade! Of course, I removed the shade to discover the identity of the strange object!
I could hardly ‘believe what I was seeing’. There were two eggs lying inside the shade! On more careful observation, I realized that they were not fresh eggs. The two eggs were ‘rotten eggs!’
Eggs, when they were placed there – by some prankster – were, of course, fresh eggs. How long had these eggs been in that ceiling shade, undetected? I had not detected them! Of course, the pranksters intended for the two eggs to go undetected for a long time – at least undetected long enough to allow the unrefrigerated eggs to become ‘rotten’! As in the ‘case’ of the ‘rotten fish’, I disposed of the ‘rotten eggs’ as quickly as I could!
As ‘lazy’ as I sometimes can be, I could have excused myself from washing my clothes, since I could have reasoned that it was the ‘rotten fish’ or the ‘rotten eggs’ that were to ‘blame’ for the ‘stinky odors’ in my room. My mother, of course, would not have ‘bought that excuse’, and I know (in my more reasonable moments), that I could not blame the ‘rotten fish’ and the ‘rotten eggs’ for my stale atmosphere!
As the third floor dorm assistant, I early learned (when I was 18 years old) that I dare not take myself too ‘seriously’. I learned that, even though I was the ‘brunt of a joke’ (recipient of an innocent ‘prank’), I must allow others to ‘laugh’ because of their prank that they ‘pulled on me’, and that I must allow myself to ‘laugh along with the prankster’!
Even though I was the ‘object’ of the prank, why not have some ‘fun’ along with those who were ‘using’ me to produce laughter within themselves! As long as the laughter is not at the expense of hurting another person (a mean joke), then laughter is ‘beneficial and life-giving’!
There are likely a few persons in our world who laugh ‘too much’, but most of the other persons in our world (perhaps you and me) who don’t laugh enough!
When I was a student at Central College (as a dorm assistant), I learned as a teenager not to he overly sensitive to the responses of fellow students who liked to play pranks on me. Previously (as a teenager who grew up in a rather ‘serious environment’), I probably would have been upset (mad?) if any fellow teen would have played pranks on me (to my face or in secret).
I learned, when I was surrounded by teens on a dorm floor, that it was good to laugh at their pranks, it was good to ‘go with the flow’, it was good to humble myself and to he a part of a teen crowd who wanted to ‘have fun’ through pranks!
Even though I was ‘assigned to be a type of watchdog’ on the third floor of the college dorm, at times I needed to ‘let my hair down’ and to relax, and to laugh at a few pranks! Take God very seriously, but don’t take yourself so ‘seriously’! Laugh at yourself, and allow others to laugh when they ‘pull off’ a good prank (at your expense). Be a part of the fun and laughter that God intended you to enjoy!
Laughter is spontaneous for some (few) people, but most of us have to learn to be ‘light-hearted’ and ‘good-natured’ when we are the ‘brunt of a joke or of a prank’! I had to learn to ‘loosen up’, to be willing to let others laugh when I fall into their (innocent) ‘traps’ (their ‘contraptions’).
Don’t be self-conscious! Don’t be defensive! Don’t be overly-sensitive! Don’t be angry when others target you with their (innocent) pranks! God is a ‘laughing God’, so God wants you to be a ‘laughing servant’! God has ‘designed’ you to laugh (unlike the beasts of the field) – so be glad to laugh and laugh! Laughing will do ‘wonders for you’!
Life is too short for you to be so serious-minded! If you are not a prankster, allow the prankster to laugh at you when they ‘catch you in their pranks’. Don’t be offended by their pranks! Frankly, God was teaching me a lot about laughter (about the value of pranks) when I was quite young (at Central College). I was a very serious-minded (and sometimes emotionally-disturbed) teenager before I left my home to attend college, at age 17.
Because of the several ‘pranks’ that I experienced (when I was the ‘watchdog’ on the third floor of the old dormitory at Central College), I learned how to ‘loosen up’, to laugh at myself, and to laugh with fellow students who got their ‘kicks’ out of engineering ‘pranks’ for me! I found that life goes much smoother when I can open my mouth wide, hold my head back, and release some hearty and hilarious laughter from my God-created lips!
A little laughter can be compared to a little salt on food. Without salt, the food is not flavored tastefully. Without a little laughter, life can become too serious; life can become dull and tasteless. Too much salt, or too much laughter also does not produce the proper ‘flavor’, either in food or in general life. There must be ‘balance’ at all times. The book of Ecclesiastes notes that there is a time to laugh and a time not to laugh. The wise person (the God-directed person) knows the difference!
“Biblical Foundation For The Sanctity Of Human Life!”