365 Grateful: Finding Fun in Fear

Every Sunday, my church invites people to come forward and place a dollar or some change into a small, classic “church bank” to honor whatever celebration or gratitude they wish to share. (That money goes to a chosen cause: currently it’s for relief efforts in Mayfield, KY, where the deadliest and longest-tracking tornado wreaked havoc in December 2021.)  

Mostly we celebrate notable dates – birthdays, anniversaries, events, graduations – and sometimes we celebrate something that raises your eyebrows a bit. Today it was bats.

A young member made his way up front to share his gratitude for a “bat incident” the night before. “It was scary,” he said, “but I had fun, too.”

I couldn’t help it. It was an awesome perspective that made me laugh (well, snort-laugh), and, well, as the lay leader I was right behind the microphone.

I just freaking love that attitude! I love how he acknowledged the fear but reveled in the fun. I love that he’s so attuned to nature and living things, like woodchucks and now, apparently, bats (I love them, too). I love how he appears to be growing into a curious, caring, nature-loving person.

Think about it. How much cooler would our day-to-day lives be if we simply accepted that, sure, some things are scary and some things are hard, some things are solemn and some things are sad … but, wow, there’s fun in those experiences, too! It made me stop and think about those heart-pounding rides, like the Tower of Terror at Disney World, those loop-the-loop roller coasters, or walking across a rope bridge 100 feet above craggy rocks and pounding surf in Ireland.

If not the fun, at least the lessons and accomplishments are worth it. But I’ll vote for the fun every time.

Let’s face it: usually (although not always, I realize), that scary stuff is actually quite minor. It’s often rooted in a lack of knowledge about something or conjured out of our imaginations. Then that ancient reptilian part of our brain – the amygdala – fuels the fear that triggers us all and sends us fleeing, sets us to fighting, or freezes us in place.

Ah, but truth be told, I’ve been trying to be a connoisseur of finding the humor in life, and I think there’s fun even in the scary, hard things. This one’s still vivid in my memory: the day my sister-in-law was taking my late husband Charlie to his chemo appointment. By this time, he’d lost so much weight, nothing would stay up around his waist. I was helping him out to the car and suddenly his sweatpants just slipped down his non-existent butt and puddled on the driveway. We looked at one another and, in the midst of something others might see as incredibly difficult (it was) and sad (that, too), we all laughed so damn hard we were brushing tears from our eyes while still giggling like school kids.

What a joyful moment to treasure from the mists of that tough time. THAT is a memory, a moment of laughter, of fun, that sparked joy at a time when so much was somber. Humor was then – and is always for me – a light in the darkness. It’s a triumph to be willing and able to discover fun, poignancy, and beauty in the midst of fear, sorrow, and difficulty.

Blessed be.

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