My husband is a great guy. A favorite of many. Partly because of his kindness and generosity, but mostly because he is so good-natured.
His goal at any given moment is to make someone smile. As a result, it takes him almost no time at all to befriend the new mail carrier, the irrigation guy, every waiter or waitress at every restaurant we frequent, teachers, coaches, sales people…. The list goes on. He even befriended the neighborhood missionaries, inviting them to discuss religion (he a devoted Catholic). He believes it’s the right thing to do. He respects their devotion and he doesn’t want to refuse them the joy of their mission They would come to the door and ask for him by name. If he didn’t have time, he’d say, “Hello! Sorry I can’t visit today!” And they’d wish him a good day and go on their merry way. (So far neither has been successful in converting the other, but they’ve enjoyed their time together.)
John isn’t this way because he wants something from others. He’s just that way.
He wears funny hats whenever he can. If he doesn’t have a hat, he makes one out of a napkin. It makes me groan and role my eyes because I’m always afraid someone I know will see him and think he’s a goofball. Then again, he is. And he makes people happy. Especially me. So I only occasionally snatch it off his head.
He does funny little dances. Spontaneously. Little jigs. Throwing his elbows around and doing a springy little box step. God help us if he gets ahold of a kazoo or a party whistle. He can hardly help himself.
He wears overalls every day except Sunday (when he wears a suit to Mass). This has been the case for many, many years. Long before we moved to a farm. He loves them because they have lots of pockets and they don’t require a belt. They suit him. He enjoys leaving one strap undone à la Jed Clampett. It’s become so much a part of his “look”, that if he ever wears sweats or jeans, everyone asks him where his overalls are.
He brought his beloved overalls on our trip to Europe. He has several pairs, and he brought the grimiest, most beat-up pair, claiming they were “…the only clean pair”. (Unlikely, since I had done ALL of the laundry in the house in preparation for this trip.) Locals were actually taking photographs of John. I wonder if they thought he was a quintessential American. Wow. Or a real live hillbilly.
Well, I made him leave those grungy, beat up overalls in Passau, Germany. We needed space for souvenirs and we had just bought him a pair of lederhosen. They took up an equal amount of space, so I figured it was a fair trade.
In any case, he has worked hard to get the kids to understand how his brand of good humor works.
For starters, it’s risky. You can be not funny. That’s scary. In fact, many don’t have the stomach for it. It takes guts to potentially look ridiculous.
But there’s a huge prize at the end for the winners. A smile. And the grand prize: a laugh.
For both John and I, the potential of winning that prize is well worth the risk. But we’re grown ups. We’ve figured out that even when we look stupid, we survive.
And it feels good enough to try.
But when you’re a kid, the fear of looking ridiculous can be paralyzing. And John wants to encourage them to go for it anyway. It makes the world a happier place.
So he coined a phrase: “Own your silly.”
It means that it’s good to be silly sometimes. And if you are ever caught looking silly, don’t be embarrassed. Own it.
And our kids seem to get it. They allow themselves to be silly. And they are four joyful people. What more can a parent ask?
I thank God for John and his capacity for silly. It’s not only brought much happiness and belly laughing to our own clan, but it has entertained more than a few tourists along the way.