The Tonic of Humour

Alan Witcutt was due to do the exhortation today. He agreed last Monday to send material from which we could extract a short “Thought”. Very sadly, and unexpectedly, he died on Tuesday. His correspondence did not arrive, but I was able to select from notes that he had earlier sent for me to type. We offer our condolences to his family, and keep them in our prayers.

When Alan Witcutt returned from visiting his son Paul in New Zealand he was straight in to lockdown. He had been thinking of adding more anecdotes to his book “Nine Lives and More” and so he took the opportunity of being at home to write these down. He then sent them and his exhortation on forgiveness for me to type. It is from these that I plan to select a “Thought” for today.

The murder of his wife Christine by a sniper in Sarajevo while delivering much needed supplies with Edinburgh Direct Aid during the war there was a shattering blow to Alan and his family. Throughout Alan’s exhortation on forgiveness he says how difficult it was to put forgiveness into practice. He says, “I also am struggling daily to fulfil Christ’s commands.” He says, “The way of Jesus had become costly and painful to me. It imposed on me an almost impossible discipline of love. To my shame, I founder on occasions.” The grief was there but it was in the background. He finishes one part of the exhortation with “Daily prayer is my only answer to solving this problem of how to forgive.” And I think this is a lesson for us.

What did we see of Alan when he chatted to us on a Sunday morning or he entertained us or we him? We saw someone who was cheerful and ready to relate anecdotes that would entertain and inform us. Grenville Kleiser (a North American author on personal development 1868-1935) said, “
Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.

Jesus used humour in his storytelling and we can learn lessons that we can remember.
Matthew 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?” This gives a very vivid picture of how we can be critical of others whilst not realising our own faults.

During the lockdown we have been receiving WhatsApp messages with lots of entertaining videos. The aim of these has been to lighten our mood, take our mind off our problems and give us something to laugh about.

Alan tells the entertaining story of his cousin who had a problem with a smoky chimney which needed to be swept. “
To save the expense of having it done professionally she decided that she would do it herself. Unfortunately, she had no knowledge of the procedures and it is very important to do it correctly.” She borrowed the brush and poles from a neighbour. “She was not aware as to the importance of turning the poles continuously in a clockwise direction to prevent the brush head from becoming loose and detaching from the pole screw thread.” At this point Alan’s mother arrived and the draught of the door opening brought soot pouring into the room. She was asked to go and see if the brush was poking out of the top of the chimney. It wasn’t but the pole without the brush was. “The disaster was now complete. She unscrewed the poles, but the brush had become lodged in the chimney. She had no option but to phone her plumber and explain the difficulty.” Instead of saving money, Alan’s cousin had to buy a new brush and pay the plumber to remove the old one. Alan says, “Sometimes, even I have had to admit defeat when trying to save money attempting to do a repair myself in or outside my house.”

So I think there are some lessons for us. It is not always easy, especially in difficult times, to put into practice Jesus teachings but with prayer and God’s help we can daily try. Sometimes we have to accept our dependence on other people and we have had to do that perhaps more than usual in this time of pandemic.

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