We all remember Bob Hope for his movies with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour such as "Road to Rio," "Road to Bali," "My Favorite Brunette" and many others. We remember him for his generous contributions to hospitals and other causes. But we probably remember him most often for his innumerable flights to all parts of the world to entertain the troops who were involved in combat.
We just recently celebrated Veterans Day. Those who saw and heard Hope had nothing but good to say about him. Just recently, I read a definition of a veteran that expresses the word so well, I want to share it with you: A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount of "up to and including my life."
What was Hope's main emphasis when entertaining the troops? It was humor. He made them laugh.
Is there any value in humor? Yes, there is great value in humor. In the late 1960s, Dr. Herbert Benson, who worked at several hospitals including Harvard Medical School, began investigating stress, its causes and what can be done to alleviate it. He developed what he called "The Relaxiation Response." Among the things he found to be useful in alleviating stress was humor. Since that time, many doctors and hospitals have become interested in the value of humor in medicine.
Here is what some people have to say about humor. Benson in his book, "Timeless Healing," quotes Dr. George Vaillant, also of Harvard Medical School, as saying, "Humor is one of the truly elegant defenses in the human repertoire. Few would deny that the capacity for humor, like hope, is one of mankind's most potent antidotes for the woes of Pandora's box." Benson says, "Humor, smiles and laughter are the very best stress-busters."
Victor Borge, the humorist-piano player said, "Humor is the shortest distance between two people."
Dr. Paul McGee says, "Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health."
Drs. David Sobel and Robert Ornstein say, "It is clear there is something about humor and laughter that causes the immune system to 'turn on' metabollically and do more effectively what it is designed to do -- promote health and wellness in the face of internal or external threats."
Dr. Bernie Siegel says, "The simple truth is that happy people generally don't get sick."
President John F. Kennedy paraphrased Remayana in saying: "There are three things which are real: God, human folly and laughter. The first two are beyond comprehension. So we must do what we can with the third."
What are some of the benefits of laughter revealed in the research? Here are some of them: it brightens one's mood; it releases tension; it is an affirmation of our humanness (animals don't laugh); it draws us together into a common state of well-being; it breaks the ice when meeting with others; it offers a valuable perspective on ourselves and the world; it has been called "internal jogging" because research shows that a good belly laugh can burn up as many calories per hour as brisk walking; and a robust laugh gives the muscles of your face, shoulders, diaphragm and abdomen a good workout.
Medically, laughter is shown to be very useful. I'm sure we all agree that none of us breathe deeply enough most of the time. Frequent belly laughs empties the lungs of residual air, which contains water vapor and creates a favorable place for bacterial growth and pulmonary infection. Hospitals have now trained nurses to tell jokes and promote laughing to respiratory patients to help with this problem.
There is nice feature in laughing. It is free. There are many sources for a good laugh: funny stories, bumper stickers, church bloopers, politicians and e-mail. Take advantage of cartoons, funny movies, comedians, funny papers, etc. You will be glad you did.
I will end this short summary of humor with a story that I hope will give you a good start on laughing:
Once upon a time, the government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of a desert. Congress said, "Someone may steal from it at night." So they created a night watchman position and hired a person for the job.
Then Congress said, "How does the watchman do his job without instruction?" So they created a planning department and hired two people -- one person to write instructions and one person to do time studies.
Then Congress said, "How will we know the night watchman is doing the tasks correctly?" So they created a Quality Control Department and hired two people -- one to do the studies and one to write the reports.
Then Congress said, "How are these people going to get paid?" So they created the following positions: a time keeper and payroll officer and hired two people to fill the positions.
Then Congress said, "Who will be accountable for all of these people?" So they created an administrative section and hired three people, an administrative officer, an assistant administrative officer and a legal secretary.
Then Congress said, "We have had this command in operation for one year, and we are $50,000 over budget. We must cutback overall cost." So they laid off the night watchman.
Arris Johnson, Hays, is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.