In my hometown we still remember a man who grew up on a plantation on the east side of the county (just a couple of miles from my family’s dairy). As a boy he listened to the enslaved Africans tell folk stories that originated in West Africa and beyond. When he grew up, Joel Chandler Harris brought those stories of Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox to life through print. Not many people today know much about the “Tales of Uncle Remus,” but those stories were a steady part of my own upbringing. We read them and home and heard them read at school.
Our town is so proud of these beloved tales that there is even a statue of Br’er Rabbit at the court house square in “downtown” Eatonton. About five years ago a few young men thought it would be funny to steal the statue. This turned out not to be funny at all because in the dismantling of the rabbit, an ear broke off and an Eatonton “APB” was issued. The assailants panicked, ditched the rabbit in the woods, and eventually confessed to their bunny burglary. The statue of Br’er Rabbit has reassumed its prominent place on its podium in my dear town.
One story of Br’er Rabbit is about his “Laughing Place.” Space does not allow the sharing of the whole story, but one line is sufficient: “Everybody needs a laughing place.”
Lord knows, everybody needs a laughing place. Where is your laughing place? Growing up our kitchen table was the source of our family’s laughter as stories were told (and retold) as well as the usual teasing and antics that are part of a big family. While we shared jokes, most of our laughter came from stories of family members long since departed. All these years later when my brothers and sister and our families get together at the home place, our “briar patch” becomes a laughing place.
Everybody needs a laughing place. There is plenty of sadness and tragedy that deserve our somber attention. But even in this flawed and marred creation, the voice of God radiates through smiles and mirth. James Weldon Johnson poetically retells the creation story with the lines: “Then God smiled, And the light broke…” (God’s Trombones)
The church is a wonderful spot to claim as a laughing place. We are more that the collection of the frozen chosen. We are God’s people, created out of God’s good pleasure with the mandate to fill the earth with our presence, our stewardship and (my translation/interpretation) laughter. It does my heart good to look out every Sunday and find occasions to share a smile, a snicker, and a laugh. I think it does God’s heart good too. Leonard Sweet writes: “God’s time is dance time…’Party times’ are those intelligent celebrations in life when one wholly enjoys existence, when one fully plays in the theological universe. Play and pray do more than rhyme.” (from Soul Salsa)
Enjoy your utterly unique and significant life God has given you. Share your laughter with others, and find a place this Sunday to call your “laughing place.”
Grace, peace, smiles,