by Fr. Dave Kelly, C.PP.S.
“You look lost,” Jonathan said to me.
“Just pensive,” I responded. “I’m in my head.”
“That’s me all the time,” another said, “I am always thinking, always in my head.”
It had been a particularly stressful day, the kind of stress and strain that takes its toll. Sr. Donna asked some of our youth to join her as she welcomed a group of seniors coming for a visit. We often have groups from schools coming to the Center to learn about our work and restorative justice. In welcoming what she thought was a group of high school seniors to Precious Blood Center, she and the youth noticed there were no young people. They thought: “How many adults are needed to chaperone a group of youth?” Then they realized the group was not high school seniors, but seniors–senior citizens. It was cause for laughter from both sides and the heaviness of the day was lifted.
This work can be hard. Trauma work, which is much of what we do, takes its toll. Humor and laughter are gifts in the midst of the stress and strain.
A young man facing 50 years in prison at the age of 15 does the “D-LOW shuffle”: a dance move that, along with the lyrics, is just silly enough to bring laughter to the whole group. A group of young men in a peacemaking circle at Cook County Juvenile Detention Center find their pain interrupted.
Humor is salve for the open wounds of suffering. I am often asked how I maintain my health in the midst of so much violence—so many tough stories. “How is it that you do not burn out?” I cling to a spirituality that makes sense in this environment; the spirituality of the Precious Blood enables us to place the story of hurt and disappointment in the midst of a larger story that does not gloss over the pain, but offers a story of hope.
It is not the joke telling humor, nor the humor at the expense of another, but the humor that brings us up out of the darkness–if but for a moment. Seniors who are truly seniors–senior citizens, a young man who does a dance step in the midst of an impending 50 years in prison–these are the joyous outbursts of laughter that interrupt the pain. I have often heard the mothers gathered together to support one another burst out in laughter. They have not forgotten the pain of having a child incarcerated; it is that, just for that moment, they realize they are not alone and can see beyond the darkness to light, hope, and joy!
Our offices at the pbmr Center are in small open cubicles; laughter and humor often interrupt the strain of walking alongside those who suffer so greatly. We often gather around the table for lunch where we celebrate the joy that is so much a part of this ministry–a joy that comes as we embrace a spirituality of the Blood. That joy and humor is shared; how often people who come to the Center remark that there is “joy in this place.”
As all of us work to live out the call to be ambassadors of reconciliation, let us remember that our spirituality also calls us to be ambassadors of joy and hope!