Good People Exist

Person 1: “Did you hear about that shooting? A cop got shot.”

Person 2: “Which one? The one in Texas?”

It’s sad that tragedy has become so common. So when I encounter really nice people, it not only restores my faith in humanity, it reminds me to keep from becoming a cynic. It does matter what we do. The positive things we do – no matter how small – do make an impact on other people’s lives.  I also believe in karma. We do get back the good that we put out, like a boomerang. This weekend in my home city of Scranton, I met people who took a bit of my hardening edge off.

Saturday morning I ran. Naturally I encountered cheery people at the local running group, the Barrier Breakers.  When people  come together with a shared interest, especially running, you’re bound to have smiles, nice conversations and supportive comments. After I put in 8.5 total miles (2.3 by myself and the rest with a group), I decided that was enough. Even though I set out thinking I would do 9 miles, the heat had not been so kind to me and I felt that I could live with myself if I walked home the initial 2.3 that I ran to the trail head in Scranton.

On my walk home I encountered a man weed wacking and cutting grass. My first thought wasn’t a thought. It was a sensation. I love the smell of freshly cut grass. It makes me smile and think of 6-year-old Jeannine playing in the back yard for the summer wearing some 70s plaid Healthtex matching outfit.  I was already feeling positive when the man greeted me with, “How was your jog?”   I told him it was good but that I was kind of spent so I was going to walk home. He smiled and went back to his work but I was pleasantly surprised.  A complete stranger actually inquiring about my morning. That was nice.

I walked up the hill that I’ve run and cursed at many times – twice during the Scranton Half Marathons – and kept on walking through the “Bull’s Head” section of North Scranton when I encountered an elderly gentleman who wore a big smile and twinkle in his eyes. He asked, “How many miles did you walk?”  Mind you, I think he was asking so that he could tell me how many miles he walks but that was fine by me. I explained about my run and then my cool-down walk home. He proudly told me that he walks 5 miles every day. Then he turned to point toward downtown Scranton to tell me one of his routes. He grinned and said, “Not bad for a 72-year-old huh?”  I told him that must be why he looks so great.  Then he came closer and told me, almost as if he was revealing a secret, “At my age, there’s only two things I worry about: the man upstairs and my health.” After a few seconds, he turned again toward me to say, “Oh and avoiding stressful people.” He then talked about a woman who used to live in his building who was very negative. He said he was glad she moved because she was stressful but he added, “God love her.”  I told him to keep up the good work and that I hoped I would be as active at his age. Then I walked on.

My third encounter came when I was within blocks from my home. It was at that bridge that has been closed since Truman was in office. Okay I’m cracking wise. The Leggett Street bridge has been closed for about three years and I would not be surprised if it was never fixed. We folks in North Scranton have learned to adapt. We had to.  Anyway, this gentleman in his 40s or so, who was wearing a baseball cap and holding a big cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee, was staring into Leggetts Creek. As I came closer he said, “There’ s a lot of fish down there.” I told him how I believe it’s spawning season or at least it’s coming soon because I know that no work is allowed on the bridge during that season. He seemed genuinely interested in that information and even more interested in appreciating nature. He looked content, smiled and turned back to see all the fish.

There’s nothing remarkable about these conversations but I was struck by the humanness of them. I was glad that people were being so neighborly. It felt nice because that’s not always the case.  Sometimes when I go or a walk or run through the city, my impressions are less than positive. Cigarette butts are a permanent fixture on our streets, along with litter and some people drive like they would earn points for hitting you. Many speed up when they see a runner coming…or it feels that way some times, even in cross walks.  Or there are the lovely foul-mouthed kids on bikes or cat calls from men in trucks and cars who feel brave as they drive by.  To be spoken to with courtesy, respect, and genuine friendliness was such a nice reinforcement of what we need to do more often.

My final example of proof that good people exist, is the story of Charlotte. Charlotte was a solid young woman in her 20s wearing a hoodie, glasses and a big big smile of warmth that you could tell was a regular accessory on her face. After watching two movies at the Circle Drive In Sunday night with my boyfriend, we were left with a dead battery in my dad’s Equinox that I borrowed (because I thought it would be fun to sit in the back with the hatch up).  After some grumbling expletives from my boyfriend and a sense of dread starting to creep into my belly, this young woman came to our rescue. She explained how this had happened to her once at the Drive In – just once – but ever since she has remembered to bring jumper cables.  We were all hooked up and we didn’t have immediate results – which wasn’t helping the demeanor of my boyfriend or I – but that didn’t affect Charlotte. She said she didn’t mind waiting if it took a while to charge. Oh, and she also offered to give us a ride if we needed it. Thankfully, the SUV battery charged and we were positive again – at least the vehicle was. Thanks to Charlotte. I thanked her heavily, asked her name, and thanked her some more. I hope that Charlotte receives a dose of help 10 times over when she needs it most. She and others like her are helping to make up for every piece of bad news we read.

Please don’t ever give up smiling at strangers, holding doors, offering change to someone at a meter looking frustrated. Our world needs you to remind all of us that we are connected and we do have the power to make humankind kind!


Spread Laughter, Better than Ebola

As news of terror groups’ influence spreads like the Ebola virus in west Africa, the need for lighter, laughter-filled moments is obvious. Those who wonder how or why we should laugh while stories of beheaded reporters and deadly viruses top our news, should take a moment to consider a few things.

What happens when the laughter stops? We’re left in darkness. Life can be very serious. It can be sad. It can be challenging, and at times seem hopeless. But we need to make life a laughing matter in order to face the laugh-less times and matters. Robin Willams knew this. Joan Rivers did too. Both of their lights have been extinguished, making  American life -specifically the world of entertainment and pop culture- a bit darker. That makes me sad and a bit worried. The world needs more leaders of laughter and hope to help combat the leaders of terror and dread.

I don’t want to sound dramatic but I fear what will happen in a society with less laughter. Imagine a dark field filled with people just sitting, waiting, wondering, feeling scared, confused and growing more worried.  Now imagine one person lighting a candle and turning to light the candle of the person next to her. She lights the candle of the person to her right and he does the same. This continues until the field is illuminated and people feel safe, warm and comforted to see and talk with the people around them. This is what laughter does. It lights the way, making it easier to see potential pitfalls. It doesn’t remove all of life’s bad stuff but it does help us to deal with it better; it reinvigorates us, giving us the hope and strength to continue to fight whatever battle we are waging.

It disappoints me when people, especially those in power, who are decision makers in organizations, don’t see the light that humor and laughter provide. They question how laughter can be introduced to people who are depressed or to families coping with the wounds created by the suicide of a loved one. These people who do not see laughter as a beacon, seem to almost fear it, like it can do further harm. I think that belief is one that stems from fear, antiquated beliefs and/or a closed mind. It is true that laughter has power and that it can create change. We just have to be open to the idea. It doesn’t require a prescription or a House vote or a platinum credit card. Laughter is within each and everyone of us. And once we let it out, it can and will spread like a virus. But this one is the kind you won’t be infected with. You’ll be effected…for good!

The Rabbit Died & Other Funny Stories

It was a packed house on Wednesday, July 9 at the Scranton Cultural Center for an appearance by comedian/actress/author Amy Sedaris as part of the Lackawanna County Library System’s speaker series. The first thing that struck me about Amy when she walked out on stage was how tiny she is. We’re not talking Thumbelina small like Kristin Chenoweth but Amy is small. Her legs were tone but very thin. Her red handbag and pumps designed by friend Sarah Jessica Parker were also eye-catching. She had a comical bounce to her entrance, with her head sort of bobbing back and forth.

For as wacky as the characters are that Amy portrays, she took this interview seriously. She seemed grounded and genuine. Mary Garm, the director of the library system, conducted the interview. Mary delivers what one might expect from a librarian. She doesn’t look like she’ s ever done E at a rave or has tried to get away with checking out 17 items in the “15 items or less” aisle at the supermarket. She looks more like someone who would be happy to sit next to Wilford Brimley on a porch swing enjoying an ice-cold glass of lemonade talking about how hot the summer has been. She and Amy made the perfect pair. My friend Stephanie made the comparison, at points throughout the interview, that Amy and Mary interacting was similar to the SNL sketch “Delicious Dish” (most talked about for Alec Baldwin’s appearance promoting Pete’s Schweddy balls, which were Christmas cookies, of course).  Mary dryly responded to Amy’s answers with “hmm, interesting” akin to Anna Gasteyer’s character Margaret Jo McCullen saying “good times.”

Amy Was Funny And Serious

Amy answered all questions seriously in her regular voice. There were no characters who came out on stage. But Amy was warm, engaging and entertaining as she told her stories. She apparently likes to keep her private life very private but she did reveal her love for cooking and entertaining people in her New York City apartment and she revealed something that I thought was meant to be a joke at first, but wasn’t. Amy is a rabbit whisperer. She goes to people’s homes to help them rabbit proof and ensure the best environment for the fluffy creature.  Amy told the sad story of her 11-year-old rabbit Dusty dying but with a hint of humor. She recalled how the rabbit cried horribly for hours and that she was tempted to move things along by smothering him because she was sure that he was in pain but the vet assured her that he was not in pain. Amy also got laughs when she told the audience how bossy her rabbit was.

You Know Amy; You’ve Seen Her in the Tide Commercials

Amy Sedaris is not a household name but people surely know her if you tell them, “She’s that blonde on the Tide commercials who acts bubbly and kind of cooky.” After listening to Mary mention all of Amy’s various projects, it seems that Amy does a bit of everything. She has written and performed plays with her famous humorist writer brother, David Sedaris. She has done sketch and other comedy on TV. She has small roles in movies. She does voice-over work on TV and in films. She has the whole rabbit thing going on. She has authored books: “I Like You, Hospitality Under the Influence,” which includes recipes and tips on entertaining and how to be a good party guest, “Wigfield,” which she co-authored with Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello and of course her latest book she is promoting, “Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People,” a funny book about how to create some off-beat craft projects.   She has created a line of quilt fabrics that are going to pop up on other household items like popcorn bowls. And she is of course the face and voice for funny Tide, Bounce and Downy commercials. I’m sure I’ve missed a few things but you get the point. She is prolific and her talents are varied.  With her upcoming break from projects she said she’d love to waitress again but she envisioned problems like other waitresses resenting her … specifically the ones who are doing it to earn a living. And the fact that people might recognize her could be problematic, she said. But she said she loves working with people and finds it so interesting to interact and observe others.

Forget All the World’s A Stage; It’s A Peek Backstage

Comedians need to people watch like we need breathe.  Anyone who writes humorous material must immerse themselves into the world with eyes and ears wide open so you don’t miss anything. (That is not a quote from Amy by the way. I’m saying it. It sounds good though right?)  As someone who has been writing for over 20 years and who has been writing stand-up comedy for about 10 of those years, humorous articles, my funny dating book, “He’s Not Prince Charming When…,” I know how much I owe to the fun observance of people and interpersonal experiences with people. Life is full of material for the next great comedy, sitcom, play, etc.  As Amy shared, her Greek grandmother was the inspiration for one of Amy’s first popular characters. Amy said “She was just so much fun to make fun of.”

What Makes Amy Laugh

When Mary asked Amy what she thinks is funny, she listed things like: people falling (at which point my friends Steph and Michelle looked at me because we witnessed some poor woman fall in the lobby that evening; while she wasn’t injured, none of us laughed because it wasn’t “that kind of fall”), wigs flying off. Eventually she said that she finds “everything” to be funny. She said she’ll laugh at a patch of mushrooms growing together.

As far as people she finds funny, that list includes her mother, Jonathan Winters, her brother David, her friend Stephen Colbert and others that I forget.

What about the Whole “Women Aren’t Funny” Thing?

Before I went to the event I wondered if I had a question that I wanted Amy to answer. I figured that the basics would be covered and beyond that I didn’t have too much I was dying to know. But I did want to hear Amy’s perspective on the whole “women aren’t funny” thing.  Even though I speak in front of audiences for my business, Laugh to Live, some times to groups of a few hundred people in size, I was nervous about raising my hand or shouting out a question. I never feel completely comfortable doing that.  Thankfully, mics were set up on both sides of the stage where Amy was seated so you just had to get in line and address her at the mic. So I did. I asked her what she thought of this whole notion or some-time buzz that women aren’t funny.

Her answer managed to surprise, disappoint and encourage me. It was as if I had asked her about a little-known restaurant down the street. Her response was like “Hmm? What is that?” It had not seemed to make any great impact on Amy’s career. She said that she enjoyed great female ensembles like the one on “Orange is the New Black” and that she worked with a lot of female actors and comedians, especially doing improv at Second City, and it was never an issue. She even asked back “Is that still a thing?” Her response disappointed me in a way because I kind of expected and wanted her to give some fire and brimstone speech about how hard her path had been but how she and other brave and strong funny women need to keep doing it to quiet all of the naysayers. But I was also inspired and encouraged that she was so unaffected by it and possibly even insulated from it. She has made a life and career making people laugh – and doing a host of humorous, creative projects – that is fulfilling to her without any gender angst. When I told her that not too long ago Adam Carolla created a bit of a stir by making comments about female comedy writers being less funny than men, she responded with “Who?” and then after a wry smile, “Oh, and we know how funny he is.” (I’ll make a note here to say that I have nothing against Carolla, not that if I did it would keep him awake at night or keep him from continuing to earn the fantastic living that he does, who am I? but I mentioned his comments because his were among the most recent that I could recall about women not being funny.) While I was at first disappointed by Amy’s nonchalant attitude about it, I am glad to hear that throughout her career she has not felt hindered or discriminated against for being a woman in the funny business and that the whole “women aren’t as funny as men” thing is not on her radar.  Amy strikes me as an explosive ball of creativity who is far too busy putting herself out there through her numerous projects and making people laugh to notice, or even care who is playing judge and jury to what or who should be considered funny!

Ready for Some Funny from Amy Sedaris

Tonight (Wednesday, July 9) I am going to hear actress/author/comedian Amy Sedaris speak in Scranton as part of the library’s speaker series. I am always embarrassed to admit that I am not an avid reader, especially because I am a writer. Allow me the indulgence of mentioning the two books I’ve written and published: “He’s Not Prince Charming When…” and the children’s book “Wartz And All.” Both feature cute frogs.  Learn more here.  I feel that writing and reading should go hand in hand but I just don’t love reading. With that said, I have not read either of Amy Sedaris’ books. I have read the book “Naked” by Amy’s brother David Sedaris.

Going into this evening, my knowledge of Amy is limited I admit. What I have seen, I have enjoyed. She’s quirky and bubbly and entertaining. I enjoyed the role she played on the ABC sitcom The Middle and I loved her on Andy Cohen’s interview show “Watch What Happens Live” on the Bravo network.  I look forward to hearing what she has to share with the audience. I was thinking this morning what question I would like to ask her – assuming I had the nerve to get up and do so. (Yes, I can speak to hundreds of people at conferences, etc. and I perform improv and stand-up comedy, but I have trouble even picturing myself standing up to ask a comedian a question that could provide me with insight. Messed up right?!)   I can’t really come up with any burning questions but that is not a reflection on what I think of Amy Sedaris.  I don’t know if I’m just not the curious type or what.  The only thing that really came to my mind is what she thinks about the whole notion that women aren’t funny.   Of course I want to know what her secret to success has been and how she overcomes challenges but I believe that will be covered. That’s some basic stuff.

I look forward to sharing some of Amy Sedaris’ insights and comments in next week’s blog. I know it’s Wednesday but I should have also mentioned that in addition to not enjoying reading and being shy, I’m also a procrastinator. I will make it worth the wait though, trust me! If you don’t enjoy, I’ll refund your money.

Have a happy hump day and find your funny somewhere tonight. I know where I’ll find mine: listening to Ms. Sedaris!

Companies with a sense of humor get it! Profit that is!

Sure I’ve been saying it for a long time. Humor and laughter are valuable resources to help individuals and organizations succeed. But I drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago, so to speak. I believe in this so much that I left a secure, well-paying job in marketing communications to deliver the message and be my own boss. Convincing others can be a bit tough but I think that what SouthWest Airlines has achieved should get everyone’s attention. It may be time for you to get the pitcher of water out and mix in the flavor packet of your choice so you can drink too.

SouthWest Airlines closed out 2013 with record profits. The company must be doing a thing or two right, right?

I don’t know the airline’s whole story but the chapter I know involves having a sense of humor and not being afraid to empower employees so they are genuinely engaged and invested in the company’s success. Thanks to attending conferences through the years of the organization AATH (Association for Applied Therapeutic Humor), I heard about how successful companies were using humor from the top of their organizations down. One company that kept being mentioned was SouthWest Airlines. The president of the company has taken himself lightly enough to dress in drag and sure that’s good for a few laughs but he’s not just window dressing. He believes wholeheartedly in the value of creativity, imagination and humor and encourages it throughout the organization.

In fact, flight attendants are allowed to customize and inject humor in their pre-flight safety spiels. You know that time on most flights when people look at their phones, fluff their pillows, gaze out the window … basically tune out the boredom they’ve heard many times about buckling seat belts, floatation devices and emergency exits.  But when humor is added to this important information, people don’t just hear droning, they actually listen. They’re entertained. They’re engaged. Watch the magic on one of their flights.   Passengers will remember this flight and will most likely leave with a positive attitude about the company.


My question to you is: What is YOUR organization doing that’s memorable? Maybe a touch of humor could mean the difference from your organization being grounded or really taking flight. Why not buckle up and take off with humor?!!



Trying to Believe, Not Belieb

In less than two months I will mark four years out of the corporate world. I left my full-time job at Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania to invest in my own business, Laugh to Live, LLC full time. While there are numerous mistakes I’ve made – and still make- I would not change that decision I made to leave so that I could be my own boss and work toward my mission of spreading laughter and humor to as many people on this planet that I can.  With that said, there are days when I lose hope. Days when I am running on empty. Days when I question what I believe. And days when I worry that rather than spread joy, I’m starting to seethe and become a hater.

This “smart” world in which we now live, has opened up amazing opportunities for many. It has brought down walls that have kept people out and segregated.  Today you can be discovered by Ellen on youtube if you play the piano and have a voice as angelic as that of a cherub. Watch that soda commercial and you’ll see where that young Michelle something or other girl has made it big because of her talent and artistry with applying cosmetics.  Yes, everyday people with great talents are being discovered thanks to accessibility. Videos uploaded from smartphones go viral… and bam! Success! But what about all of the other desperate attempts at attention and success that lack any talent and in some cases put the subjects or worse, other people at risk? The kids recording themselves destroying property or beating up another kid. Today I saw a news report about some cab driver videotaping people getting into his cab where a big, yellow snake was waiting for them in the back seat. Apparently it is some stunt to help promote his book about facing fear. (I don’t think the passengers were forewarned about the snake. Their shocked and fear-filled faces seemed genuine.) Is this clever guerrilla (or in this case, reptile) marketing or a dumb-ass trick to get his 15 minutes of fame?

Then there are all of those “funny” baby and cat videos out there. (Get ready because I’m going to sound like a hater in the next few sentences.)  Maybe it’s because I’m not a mom and maybe it’s because I never liked cats until I was forced to make peace with them over the years as numerous friends had friendly cats who won me over, (The fact that I’m allergic doesn’t help either.) but these videos don’t impress me. They make me half smile when I see them by accident. I don’t seek them out or press “play” when I see posts by friends on social media outlets.  Don’t misunderstand me, if a 30-second video of a cat trying to climb out of a sink makes you laugh, go nuts. Set it up to play over and over and have a blast! We need more laughter in the world and it’s harmless (as long as someone eventually helps the cat out of the sink). And yes, of course, babies are adorable so enjoy them giggling while a parent rips up paper for two minutes. I just wonder what it is about these videos that require no talent other than the ability to buy a phone with video-recording capability and press “record,” that makes them so insanely popular and likeable. Am I jealous? Yes.  Am I becoming slightly bitter? Perhaps.  But I find that just because we have more accessibility and more outlets through which we can communicate, doesn’t mean that we should. How does a person who writes a good story or a comedic performer who does a funny set earn respect and attention from viewers. (I’m asking for a friend.)  I’m excited when any of my stand-up clips on youtube get more than 200 views.  I think if I Photoshopped a cat in the audience drinking a glass of Merlot or standing next to me on stage, then my video would go viral.  But is that the kind of attention that I want?  Um, er, no (hangs head low and darts eyes left to right). Because this is fleeting attention.  The bottom line is that I have to keep doing what I’m doing.  Believe in my talents and keep putting them out there for people to discover and enjoy. And I can’t hate on those cute little felines who get all the attention. It’s not like they’re asking for it.

Now to my final point – or should I say the other thing that’s bugging me today and making me talk aloud at my TV and computer screens – what have our priorities become?  I’ve seen some news stories yesterday and today about Justin Bieber. I don’t know what prompted the story but the musician’s attorney is talking about how much abuse he is taking. That he can’t walk anywhere without being harassed. I saw a panel of “experts” talking on CNN and someone was talking about our responsibility as a society. I guess because he was so young when he became rich and famous that we (the collective community that is watching and supporting or hating him) are now responsible for what is being seen as his downfall. There seems to be this conversation around the tearing down of the successful. I guess this is something like the conservative cry about classism. “Don’t hate me because I’m privileged. Admire me and hope that you too can be like me some day.”  I don’t hate Justin Bieber. I don’t love Justin Bieber. I have actually paid for a song or two of his and I  have sung along. I have driven with the tunes blaring in my car and they made me happy temporarily. But quite frankly, I don’t really think about Bieber. I’m not a Belieber but I’m not a non-Belieber. I simply don’t care.  As for his welfare, I would say his parents should be most concerned about that and should have been from the beginning since he was so young when he entered this world of fame. I do feel somewhat badly that celebrities lose their privacy and are judged so harshly but I can’t say that it keeps me awake at night. Maybe that’s because I left a job that paid over $50,000 to do something I thought was more noble and fulfilling while still trying to make a living. And maybe my attention has been focused on trying to get “affordable health care”  (something I actually had before the new law went into effect this year).  I am not trying to sound like a Debbie Downer or someone hating on people who have achieved financial success and/or fame.  I just get disgusted and disappointed when it seems that the collective consciousness of society seems more concerned with whatever shiny video pops up. They want more in less time. Tell a story in 140 characters?  I think not. Not a full story anyway.  And that is exactly why I don’t expect many people to actually read this far into my blog. It’s too long right? Sure. I should have bullet points, a list of 8 steps to ….. and sub headers so you don’t have to read the entire article or think too much.

So what started me on this rant today? As I was sitting here with my laptop on me and news on the TV,  I felt compelled to write rather than rant into the air. After the story about Justin Bieber, I watched a “news report” about Kristin Bell sharing on “Kelly and Michael” the fact that she peed in a jar at the Oscars because her dress was so tight. I had to laugh aloud. I know that we can’t dwell on the 239 people missing on that plane that vanished from Malaysia or talk only about tragedy, but what IS newsworthy? I don’t care who peed in what. As long as it’s not on my car, front porch, or my foot, I’m not really concerned with the bladder routine of celebrities, or non-celebrities for that matter.  Maybe it’s the journalist in me getting miffed by the flooding of the Internet by “writers” and “news” that is pricking my laughter balloon.

If you read this blog and chuckle or smirk a bit, great. If you read this and get annoyed because you love cat videos and the Biebs, that’s okay too. Know that I don’t mean to alienate or offend you or anyone.  I just want to believe that we are headed in the right direction in this world today. That we believe in real potential and talent and in the goodness and capabilities of one another. I’m a lot less concerned with “Beliebing.”

All the Emotions that Are Fit to Predict

I know that we’ve all seen the self-help gurus out there on the talk show circuit telling us that we can choose our emotions.  No one “makes us feel” one way or another.  I remind myself of this when I’m having a crappy day that I’m blaming on someone’s slow driving, the potholes, watching numerous people throughout the day commit what I consider a heinous act: tossing their cigarette butts on the ground and out the windows of their moving vehicles. I’m really quick to tell people like my mom or other friends that they are responsible for their own moods and that they shouldn’t let the actions or in-actions of others set the tone for their day. Naturally it’s much easier to preach than to practice. But with all of that said, I had my ah-ha ha moment last week when I read a tweet from a local newspaper. The tweet contained the title of a ‘news’ article. The title was, “PennDot Projects to Cause Commuting Headaches.” It caused me to pause. This news headline was in essence telling people how they were going to feel. I didn’t know that news reporters were in the psychology or sociology business.

This isn’t the first instance I’ve noticed nor the first infraction, I’ll call it, by the media to tell us the viewers and readers how something should make us feel. I often shout at the television in the morning when a reporter (and I use that word lightly) on Good Morning America will shake her head after a story is reported and say something like “unbelievable” or, “that’s outrageous.” I guess it’s not enough to give us the facts and let us draw our own conclusions and feel what we feel (what I learned while earning my BA in Journalism at Penn State) it’s now important that the reporters cut out the middle man (that being the viewer’s brain, set of core values, etc.) and get straight to what we should be feeling.

When I read the title of the news story “PennDot Projects to Cause Commuting Headaches” I had to say something. I posted it on my Laugh to Live facebook page because I wanted to share and remind people that just because it’s the norm or expected reaction, we shouldn’t be told that we will feel that or that it’s our only choice of response.  I mean even sugar packets don’t like to draw definite conclusions or at least they didn’t (I don’t use sugar so I haven’t read a packet recently). As far as I know, those packets stated something like “May cause cancer in lab rats.” But the reporter, or at least copywriter, of the news headline was quite sure that the roadwork would lead to headaches – as if it was akin to the salty lunch meats that lead to migraines.

I understand that roadwork causes delays and people don’t like delays because they wreak havoc with our schedules and plans, but what if the headline, instead of reading “Cause Commuting Headaches,” stated something like, “PennDot Projects to Create More Time for You in Your Cars to Listen to Your Favorite Music, to Chair Dance, to People Watch, to Wave and Smile to the People in the Cars Next to You”? What would happen if that were the headline? Would it be any less factual or accurate about the dreaded roadwork? I think the headline itself would have received a few smiles and chuckles. Instead, the reported the news as usual with a little something extra – a prediction about, or declaration of, how you will respond.

What happened to us being able to choose our own emotions, attitudes and responses to events and people? What if we choose to be patient while being “stuck” in traffic? What if we use that time while we creep along to do some soul searching, or meditation? Or we look out the window and connect with other people or nature? I won’t toot my horn and say that I always do this or that I often do this, but I will remind you the reader that we DO have the ability to choose our mood and response. We are in control of how we respond to events and to people. I challenge you and me this summer to respond to roadwork by spending that time doing something other than curse so loud that we risk an aneurysm. Let’s try breathing, smiling and even laughing. The people in cars next to us may think we’re weird but they also have the choice to smile and laugh back or at least laugh at us laughing. I like that idea better than seeing more red-faced people yelling expletives!