When I was seven years old my parents got a divorce. It took me years to figure out how much that affected me but, in the moment, I really didn’t think much about it. At least the yelling stopped. But before that momentous occasion, when I was six, another thing happened that probably had more influence on my life than any other.
In those days, they tested your IQ when you were six years old, and that test determined in which classes you would you would be enrolled in the future.
Through skill or luck, (I was never sure which) I placed in the top IQ percentile. What that meant was that every year after the first grade, I was placed in the MGM classes. MGM stood for Mentally Gifted Minors.
So, in the second grade, I was placed in a combination class which consisted of third graders and a few MGM second graders. To be honest when I thought about it as I got older, I always felt bad for the third graders who’d been put in a class with us second graders. I wondered if they felt like they really hadn’t gotten out of the second grade yet.
But at the time, none of this entered my mind. I was only seven years old, and I was only focused on making friends. Divorce was looked down upon in those days and that made me self-conscious. So, I started looking for cool friends to hang out with. That meant trying to be friends with the older kids.
I found a couple of cool third graders to hang out with, Danny and Jim. They wanted to hang out with me because I impressed them by getting into trouble regularly. I became famous by smarting off to the teacher in effort to make the other kids laugh. The kids loved it—Mrs. Courtney not so much. The downside was that getting into trouble meant being sent to the principal’s office. A lot.
In the 1960s, a visit to the principal’s office often required getting swatted with a big wooden paddle with holes in it. The holes allowed air to flow through which cut down on the wind resistance and increased the speed of the swat. My class clowning necessitated so many trips to Mr. Dollahan’s office that Jim and Danny admired this second grader’s fortitude. It made them believe that I was the King of Swats.
Well, today I reveal my secret. Mr. Dollahan never swatted me. Not even once. Mr. Dollahan’s weakness was, he had a sense of humor. And, the fact was, I was funny. He also knew that my mom had four boys to raise by herself. So, I think he made an allowance because of this. And, for good or ill, I think the MGM label may have played a part in his leniency. He knew the only reason I was cracking wise with Mrs. Courtney was to get attention from the other kids.
So, every time I got sent to his office, he would sit me down and ask me what I’d done. I’d just recount what I’d said in Mrs. Courtney’s class. And invariably what I’d said, that made all of my classmates laugh, would make him laugh too.
When he got done laughing, he’d say, “Okay. Knock that off. Go back to class.” No swats though. Not one. Ever. It taught me a valuable lesson about the value of laughter in making friends and influencing people.
People love to laugh.
As the schooling years rolled by, I improved my comic skills and my timing to the point where I not only made all the kids laugh, the teacher would laugh too.
My sense of humor has helped me all of my life and quite literally has paid my bills. It’s a genius characteristic. We all have it. And it can be developed by anyone. So, cultivate your genius characteristic of sense of humor. It could come in handy in a serious situation. In a future article, I’ll share with you how it even saved my life one time.
Trust me when I tell you that with a little practice, anyone can be funny. So, give it a go. Brighten someone else’s day. Because from my experience, nothing beats getting chuckle or putting a smile on someone else’s face. Nothing.