I know what you are thinking. Life is difficult, and serious.

I agree.

But life is also brimming with humor, if you pay attention.

And humor lightens our hardships, doesn’t it?

Laughter is a gift.


Our oldest son, Caleb, now a husband and a father, has been playing and organizing sports competitions since he was in grade school. He is a fine coach with a quick mind and the ability to clearly explain skills and systems and rules of most any game. He once competed in more college intramurals than anyone I have ever met, and there now hangs a shiny plaque in his honor, displayed in the workout facility of his alma mater.

Caleb never believed in competing haphazardly or playing without keeping score. (Why would you do that?) He consistently executes game play with excellence, fairness, and the drive to win. He also adheres to the team mindset.

As in, there is no “I” in the word team.

We are a team, and the best team players will be placed in the right positions to increase the chances of a victory. Selflessness, always, for the sake of the team.

Enter Gary.

One fall, late in his college years, Caleb coached an intramural kickball team. The team ended up being so large that Caleb created a rotation of players.

One of the players was a commuter student named Gary.

Gary was a solid decade older than everyone else, a man in his thirties.

It soon became clear that Gary was a mighty legend in his own mind and had made it his life’s mission to shine as brightly as the North Star on those intramural fields–fields that had long since passed him by.

The first problem was that there was not a speck of team mindset buried within the crevices of Gary’s soul.

He began to press Caleb for more playing time, scoffing at rotations.

Caleb is not one to be pressed, and while gracious and kind, Caleb remained firm with Gary, who, how shall I say it? did not excel on the field.

Caleb adhered to his ongoing rotations, and it was a remarkable grace that Gary was permitted to play at all.

Gary began to simmer.

Our son holds little tolerance for sulky behaviors (the apple clearly does not fall far from the tree) and ignored Gary’s mood swings. Caleb happily captained his team, who in spite of Gary’s shenanigans, was having a blast on those hilltop fields in the cool of evening. As the weeks passed the team racked up enough victories to propel them into the playoffs.

As playoffs began, every team member played at least a portion of the game, but only a chosen few participated in both offense and defense.

Gary was not one of those selected to play both sides.

He desperately clung to the notion that he deserved to play the entire game and like a whiny child, moaned about it.

I know my son well enough to picture his wide blue eyes locking in on the demanding player before him. I can conjure the set of his mouth, a firm line, and his gravelly voice: low and serious and quiet.

Where should I go? Gary whined; this petulant man turned child.

Caleb pointed to the bench. Right there.

Gary huffed and stormed to the bench, enraged.

The game kept rolling and it was close.

Caleb called out: Let’s go! Defense on the field!

Defense flooded the field, and Gary joined, scurrying onto the grass, rebellion darkening his face.

Gary, I said defense. You are not on defense. Caleb said.

Gary countered. You need your best people playing right now.

I know that, Gary. Back to the bench–you are a sub.

A cool wind picked up and Gary stared at Caleb, who did not budge.

Gary, a member of the I mentality rather than the team approach, tightened his fists and again stormed off the field to the bench.

Caleb rallied the defense, clapping and offering encouragement.

Another inning passed and then?

Crunch time.

Two outs and it was Gary’s moment to shine. He was up.

The pitcher rolled the kickball straight to Gary who lifted his foot and launched that ball as high as he possibly could into the air. Something no one had ever done that season, and for good reason.

It was an intentional, easy out. Anyone with a pulse would be able catch that airborne sphere, which they did.

Game over.

Gary, who could have catapulted the team to the championships, chose to kill their entire season.

And it did not end there.

He jogged to first, patted the base, and careened off of the field and into the parking lot. He drove away, never to be seen again.

Later that night he sent Caleb a scathing text, which our son wisely ignored.

I cannot stop laughing whenever the story is rehashed.

Such silliness from a grown man, benched.


Here is another funny story of a man who benched himself.


My brother and I spent our elementary school days playing in the sunshine with friends. These were the golden days of the late 1970’s, when children actually romped outside in the delicious fresh air, for hours on end. Who had time for indoor games while the sun was still high in the blue sky?

It was grand.

Holly and Stu were a brother and sister who were the same ages as we were, which worked out perfectly. For a time, we lived in the same neighborhood, and frequented each other’s homes.

Holly and Stu’s father was named Al, and he was known affectionately as Big Al. I am not sure exactly how tall he was, but my best guess was that he stood six foot four: a massive man with an ample tummy and a friendly, booming voice. Al perpetually smoked a thick cigar, (my brother and I called it a stogie) dangling it from the corner of his mouth, clenched between his molars, and there it remained, bobbling and flaking through each and every conversation and good-natured belly laugh.

People flocked to Al, because he was friendly, generous, and the life of the party. He did not know a stranger, as they say. Soon after we were introduced to this family, Al’s career skyrocketed, propelling his family into the highest of tax brackets and into a mansion of a home that overlooked one of the finest valleys in all of New England. He built a swimming pool in their gorgeous, and enormous backyard, and graciously invited us over to swim any time during the high heat of summer.

All of this to say: Al did not change with his sudden windfall. Yes, his family’s zip code was new, but he still slapped every friend and acquaintance on the back, chuckling at a story or joke or at anything, really. He waved at his short and tiny wife, beckoning her his way, with: Honey, thaw a few more steaks, as he randomly invited so-and-so and another so-and-so for dinner.

Al loved to feast. Steaks, burgers, baked potatoes, cake, cookies, and ice cream. The more people the merrier, and the tastier the delicacies, the better.

During this time, Al and his wife stopped at a convenience store while out driving one weekend, purchasing two of Al’s favorite candy bars and on a whim, a scratch ticket.

Go ahead, honey, let’s see what we didn’t win, he said with a laugh, handing her a key to scrape away the shimmery coating.

The 5 then became a 50 which became a 500 and finally? $5000.

He laughed as he shared this story with one and all, his cigar resting lightly between two fingers while he paused to guzzle a Coke. Good fortune seemed to rain upon Al, and no one else.

In due time, as his waistline expanded further, his wife insisted that it was time for a checkup.

He obliged, and the doctor told him he must get in shape: the candy bars and potatoes and steaks and cokes were catching up with him. Time to lay off the cigars, too.

Al took the warning in stride and hit the department store, purchasing a velour jogging suit paired with a matching striped sweat band. (Anyone else remember when those suits and sweatbands were the hottest style?)

And then, when the excuses had finally run their course and the luscious spring weather blew in on a breeze, Al laced up his sneakers, pulled the sweatband above his ears and around his forehead, and pecked his little wife on the cheek.

Honey, I am going jogging, just like the doctor said.

This, if not a miracle, was certainly an enormous accomplishment, because Al preferred anything over exercising.

Little wife breathed a sigh of relief, and watched her husband scoot down the road, albeit at a slow lumber.

Al turned the corner, having huffed and puffed for less than one quarter of a mile when a familiar car, windows rolled down, pulled up next to him.

Hey! said the friendly fellow, an acquaintance from the office building next to Big Al’s.

Al, still breathless, was delighted at such good fortune. An unexpected reprieve! He leaned in, resting his arms on the vehicle’s window frame, as his friend spoke.

Say, Al, there is a brand-new doughnut shop across town that is holding its Grand Opening today. Care to join?

Without missing a beat, Al hopped in the car and off they drove.

And that is how Big Al benched himself.

His exercise days were over before they truly began.

He stoked this favorite story, building it up, tending it like a perfect campfire, warming and drawing his rapt audience in as he roared with laughter, bringing everyone to raucous delight, his cigar shaking as he passed more chips and soft drinks to the many guests circling his table.

And this was his charm: not the house with the view, nor his $5000 scratch ticket, nor his swimming pool, nor his prominent job.

The charm was his invitation to join him in laughter, never taking himself too seriously.


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

…A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

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