By Leslie Criss / NEMS Daily Journal

“What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.”

– Yiddish proverb

“A laugh is a smile that bursts.”

– Mary H. Waldrip

I began my Tuesday morning last week with laughter so large it produced a few tears. A friend and co-worker had e-mailed me a video of his 20-month-old son.

Johnny was having a big time in the tub, his mama sitting close by. As videographer Dad enters the bathroom, it takes a few moments before Johnny comes into view. You hear him before you see him. And it’s a most marvelous sound. The laughter of a child. Unbridled. Unabashed. Unassuming.

What was making this beautiful boy break into uncontrollable peals of laughter was so amazingly simple.

His mama was slapping the outside of the shower curtain encircling the tub. As she slapped, droplets of water would splash her son.

As Johnny began anticipating what part of the shower curtain his mama might swat, he’d laugh even harder. At one point his laughing mother encourages her son to “breathe, Johnny, breathe.”

By the short video’s end, the laughter of Johnny’s dad is also heard loudly and clearly. It was a wonderful way to start my day.

“At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.”

– Jean Houston

My 76-year-old mother breaks into laughter sometimes, just out of the blue. The tendency of those of us around her is to ask, “What’s so funny?”

Sometimes she has an answer; but more often she’ll just say, “It’s better to laugh than to cry.”

Studies abound regarding the healing effects of laughter – physically, mentally and emotionally.

So, once again, Mom is right.

“Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

– Mark Twain

One of my favorite movies is “Arthur” with Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud. Arthur Bach is a happy drunk with no ambition who will inherit the family fortunes if he marries a certain woman. But he falls in love with the penniless Minnelli whose family has no worldly connections.

Arthur laughs his way through life. Sometimes he breaks into laughter when nothing’s been said, nothing has happened.

And he utters one of my favorite lines: "Sometimes I just think funny thoughts.”

“You can’t deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.”

– Stephen King

In a few days we’ll begin a brand new year. I imagine there are many who’ll breathe a great sigh of relief when the sounds of “Auld Lang Syne” are heard around the world.

2010 likely won’t go down in history as the best of times. But a new year is sort of like a clean slate, and we can look toward the coming year with the anticipation of better days. At least, we can hope for better days.

My wish for us all in 2011 is that we take every opportunity to laugh – even in the face of uncertainty.

Just like my little friend Johnny, my mama and Arthur Bach.

May the coming year bring you plenty of laughter.

Happy New Year.

“I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can.”

– Linda Ellerbee

Contact Leslie Criss at or (662) 678-1584.

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