He was wearing a blue collared shirt, and a kind expression skirted around his wrinkled temples and blue eyes.
My college girlfriends and I were gathered around a table at a breakfast restaurant. The man in the blue shirt and his wife were seated next to us, within earshot of our fits of giggles.
Our table was experiencing the pure joy you feel when familiar, good friends gather to catch up after many months apart. We laughed and laughed in between sips of coffee and bites of omelettes. We brought up shared memories – late nights spent in our college town, favorite professors, campus characters and spring break trips. We remarked on how fast the time goes, and also how quick we are to pick up where we left off. A true gift.
After some time, the man in the blue shirt walked over to our table with a gentle shuffle and spoke up.
“I want to thank you all,” he said. And we all turned to face him, curious.
“It’s such a pleasure to enjoy one’s dinner to the sound of such laughter,” he said with a big smile.
I was suddenly so proud to be sitting at our table – the table of laughter.
“We are in our 80s,” the man continued, gesturing to his wife. “When we were young, we used to have a record. One of the tracks was called ’16 women trapped in a lavatory.’ And when you got to the track, all you could hear was laughter! That’s all the song was!”
He chuckled at the memory, and all of us laughed with him, smiling at his willingness to share.
“You all reminded me of that today. So, thank you.”
I imagined what the sound must have been like, and then I realized that I already knew it well, that sound of a laugh track.
It’s the sound that underlines my deep, sweet friendships, new and old. It’s the sound that defines each and every interaction I have with my sister. It’s the sound of my parents catching each other dozing off in front of the TV. It’s the sound of brunch with college girlfriends.
The words of that kind gentleman reminded me of something that’s important to me.
As we look forward to the fall season, I’ve been spending time prioritizing – deciding what activities are important to me, and what things I’m going to say ‘no’ to in order to make the important stuff happen.
This is not a pattern that I’m very good at. Ordinarily, I want to dive right into each new season (fall especially so, because it’s my favorite) with gusto and fervor and a ‘yes’ to every invitation. Savoring and enjoying has, historically, meant agreeing and planning and filling my calendar with friend dates and projects.
And this fall, I want to do as many of those beautiful things as possible. But I am realizing that, in order to make room for the good stuff, I have to say ‘no’ to stuff that’s less important. I have to say ‘no’ to the voice of frantic hustling – the voice of one more commitment, one more spot in the schedule.
I’m practicing that this fall.
For example, here are some things that I am saying ‘no’ to:
- Spending time on social media on the weekends
- Committing to more projects than I can handle at work
And here are some things I am saying a big, loud ‘YES’ to:
- Inviting friends over for dinner around our table, rather than going out
- Making space in my schedule to pray and practice silence
- Spending time outside, admiring the changing light & leaves
And last, but certainly most vitally:
Just as laughter defined our reunion breakfast this weekend, I want laughter to be a memorable and distinct thread, connecting my fall activities and meals and plans.
I want to be known for my laughter. I want it to be the sound that defines this happy and full and growth-filled season.
Laughter is hard-fought, and it’s worth fighting for. A true gift. The man in the blue shirt at breakfast taught me that.
It’s a sound that calls us back to what’s most important – these friends, this time, this place around our tables and in our homes. Laughter requires us to live in the moment, to double over and pause in the joy of connection.
Let’s keep the laugh track going this fall. Let’s gather and say gracious and necessary ‘no’s in order to focus on the good stuff. Let’s make space for ourselves and our people to breathe, to rest, and to share – laughter as our soundtrack.