Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Heeding the Call: A Program on Justicemaking for Junior High School Youth

Leader Resource 1: Laughter Vignettes

Based on excerpts from "Medicine of Mirth" by Mary Desmond Pinkowish and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Office" by Nancy Mann Jackson in Ode Magazine, August, 2009.

Cut the sheet into three separate slips for three small groups.

Group 1

Decide on roles and act out the story for the entire group.

A police officer responded to a domestic disturbance call. As the officer walked to the front door of the house, she heard the sound of an argument inside between an adult male and an adult female. Suddenly a television crashed through the window, landing in the yard. She knocked on the door. "Who is it?" yelled an angry voice. "TV repair," the officer replied.

Once you are finished acting out the situation, explain that in real life this police officer had just completed a course in humor training, and the husband and wife ended up laughing after hearing "TV repair." Take a vote: how many people think laughter helped diffuse this situation. Why or why not?

Group 2

Draw the experiment explained below for the entire group without using letters or words. See how much of it they can understand.

Blood was drawn from volunteers (who had previously been diagnosed with cancer) both before they watched a funny video and again afterward. Researchers were interested in the activity of two cells in this study: the natural killer (NK) cells which work to kill cancer cells and the actual cancer cells. While watching the funny video, some of the volunteers simply looked amused while others laughed aloud. At the end of the video, both the "laughers" and those who were "amused" experienced decreases in psychological stress, but the results of the blood draws showed that NK cells from the laughers were more active against the cancer cells than those who simply looked amused at the video.

Once you are finished drawing the story, read it aloud to the group. Explain that this research was performed by Mary Payne Bennett, director of the Western Kentucky University School of Nursing. "Laughter is a good thing," she said, "with no major harmful side effects. This is a longstanding component of major belief systems around the world, but now we're documenting it."

Group 3

Decide on roles and act out the two situations for the entire group seeing how much of it they can understand.

1. You thought you recognized a friend in a crowded room. You attracted the person's attention and hurried over, but when you got there you discovered you had made a mistake and the person was a total stranger.

2. You arrived at a party and found that someone else was wearing a piece of clothing identical to yours.

To the leaders: Once the groups have acted out the situations, ask the whole group how they would have responded in the situations presented by Group 3: 1. I wouldn't have found it particularly amusing. 2. I would have been amused but wouldn't have shown it. 3. I would have smiled. 4. I would have laughed. 5. I would have laughed heartily. Explain that Michael Miller, director of the Center for Preventative Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, led a study in which these situations were two of numerous situations listed on a survey that was given to people without heart disease as well as people who had suffered heart attacks or had other cardiac problems. The results were that people with no history of heart disease were 40 percent more likely than those with some history of cardiac problems to report laughing in situations like the two listed above. In other words, those who used laughter to deal with day-to-day frustrations were healthier than those who displayed anger or hostility in those situations.