WILSON: Go ahead, laugh today

I live close to one of our city parks. The peals of laughter coming from the children on the playground, on a summer afternoon, are the sweetest sounds on God’s green Earth. It is the most natural of sounds, caused by the most basic of human instincts — happiness.

You can look into the eyes of an infant, make a silly face, and that child will burst into fits of giggles that will warm the soul of any parent, grandparent, or grouchy old-codger neighbor.

Children laugh and smile because they have no reason not to. Laughter and play are innate and first nature to children. As a youngster, when my second granddaughter would get a little cranky, I would tell her in a pseudo-stern voice, “Don’t you dare smile.” In an act of cranky defiance, she would smile — albeit, a mischievous smile. I would follow that firm command with, “OK, you can smile, but don’t you dare have a good time.” She would counter by smiling and letting me know she was going to have a good time (and I couldn’t stop her). I would continue my lecture by saying, “OK, you can smile and have a good time, but you cannot laugh!” By that time, whatever was causing the aforementioned crankiness would have dissolved in a wash of giggles and a grin the size of all of tomorrow’s promises.

It isn’t until the requirements of maturity creep into our lives that our natural instincts start to fail. Responsibilities make our faces find a reason to not break into spontaneous smiles. Obligations weaken the ability for laughter to bubble up and escape our mouths. Growing up takes all the fun out of growing older.

Someone much smarter than me once said, “Laughter is the best medicine.” To that end, the Mayo Clinic reported that laughter helps to reduce stress, improve your immune system, and might even make me better looking (the last part is still up for debate, might have been fabricated, and absolutely is not be part of the Mayo report).

I think we need a new national holiday celebrating laughter. I do not know who is in charge of making up national holidays, but we have some interesting ones — “Festival of Sleep Day” (Jan. 3), “Backward Day” (Jan. 31), and one of my favorites “Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day” (Aug. 8). These are all good and well-meaning days of celebration, but I would like to propose an even better and well-meaning holiday: “Tell a Stupid Joke Day.” It should be celebrated today, whenever “today” happens to be — whenever the mood strikes.

Personally, I would jump on every opportunity to celebrate. For instance, after enduring an excruciatingly long and utterly boring staff meeting, finish it out by telling a stupid joke — something like “A grasshopper hops into a bar. The bartender says ‘Hey, I make a drink named after you.’ The grasshopper says, ‘Really? You make a drink called ‘Bob’?”

I promise, everyone will groan. But, look around the room — the corner of someone’s mouth will start to curl up in a stifled smirk, and someone else will slip loose with a muffled chuckle. Tell the joke, later on in the day, and someone else’s mouth will try to fight off a similar smile — even if the smile is because the joke was just as stupid the second time as it was the first. By the end of the day, all you will have to say is, “You make a drink named ‘Bob?’” and good-natured groans will fill the air, accompanied by a couple snorts of laughter that slipped out in a moment of weakness.

Go ahead and laugh, today. Laugh like you have no reason not to.