Two Answers to One Prayer

Two Answers to One Prayer

From Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul

Two Answers to One Prayer

Steve Wilson is, like myself, a presenter of humor programs. When I interviewed him, Wilson told me about an incident that happened to him related to humor and grief.

“I had always gone out,” he said, “to talk to community groups about standard psychological subjects—like marriage, divorce, raising kids, stress, depression and things like that. One day,” Wilson continued, “I got a call from a woman at a cancer clinic who runs a group called Make Today Count. She heard that I give talks and asked that I come and address the group. I told her that I had a new talk on humor. She said, ‘That would be wonderful. I think the group would really like that.’”

Wilson was excited to do it. His mother had died of ovarian cancer when he was twenty years old so he thought it would be great if he could be of some help to these people.

There were about thirty-five people seated in a circle that night. To get the meeting started each person told the group their name, the kind of cancer they had and the stage of treatment they were in.

The first person said, “My name is Susan. I have a brain tumor. They were able to do surgery, and now I’m getting radiation.” Then Susan’s parents introduced themselves. After that, a young man, who was also there with his parents, announced that he had lymphoma.

“I started to realize,” Wilson admits, “the gravity of the situation these people were in—and there was a room full of them.” As each person went around the room, Wilson started to feel inadequate and questioned whether it was right to discuss humor under such circumstances. “Here were people with really catastrophic illnesses in their lives. I worried that my program wasn’t appropriate.”

To ease his fears, Wilson said a prayer: “God, if this is where you want me to be and there is something in this message that you want these people to hear, then I hope this is the right thing and that you will help me in what I say.”

The prayer was answered in two ways.

First, a man who was introducing himself to the group said, “My name is Lester, and I’m pissed off. I have cancer of the liver. My doctor told me I had six months to live. That was a year ago—and I gave away my winter coat.”

When everyone in the group started to laugh, it was a validation for Wilson that the group wanted to laugh and that a person in a serious situation could indeed poke fun at himself.

With the knowledge that humor was indeed appropriate, Wilson started his talk. He told jokes, played with props and explained the value of humor. It was going well. The crowd was laughing loudly and really appreciating what Wilson was doing.

Then there was a knock on the door. A woman opened it and stuck her head in the room. She said, “Listen, I’m trying to run a support group in the room next door . . .” Wilson thought to himself, Okay, now I’m in trouble. But the woman continued, “and my group would like to come in and join your group.”

It wasn’t until after the program that Wilson found out that the second gathering was a support group for those who had recently lost a loved one.

This was the second answer to his prayer. “People who came together to support each other in their grief,” says Wilson, “wanted to be where the laughter was.”

Allen Klein, M.A., C.S.P.

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