Life In the Pits

By Jeff Justice, CSP

I know I talk a lot about using humor both in life and at work. Using humor to make my point sounds like I think it’s easy. It’s not. I teach this stuff but it’s a challenge for me to remember to use it all the time. Here’s an example:

Even though our family is vegetarian, my younger daughter loves to go to McDonald’s to play in the area filled with plastic balls. Once while we were there, I noticed she had brought a little toy dinosaur with her. Since I’m a parent with halfway decent intelligence, I said, “Jennica, why don’t you leave it here on the table with me, so you won’t lose it?”

“Oh, no, Daddy. I’m won’t lose Diny.” Well, you can already figure out what I heard two minutes later: “Daddy, I can’t find Diny!” I tried to say something that sounded fatherly. “Well, if you had listened to me, Diny would be here right now, wouldn’t he? But, no-o-o-o! You had to take him inside, didn’t you?”

I tried sticking my hand through the net, feeling for Diny in what I think of as a “little puke pit.” (Sorry…do you know what little kids really do in there?) Wanna talk about breaking down your ego? I knew I’d have to climb into it if I had any chance of finding Diny. All six-foot-three of me — 200-and something pounds — trying to crawl through that little gerbil habitat!

Once inside, I was digging deep, tossing balls out of my way and scolding like a good parent: “I told you not to bring that inside here!” Some of the balls bopped Jennica — a little kid who knows a good game when she sees one. She picked up some balls and threw them at me. I picked them up and threw them back at her. Next thing I know both of us were falling all over the place, swimming through these things, laughing. People are walking by with their kids. They see us. They’re laughing. Then the cops came.

Here’s my point: a little kid pulls me down into the ball pit while I’m trying to stay mad. “C’mon, Daddy, lighten up!” We’re the grown-ups. We can be mature enough to pick our battles. You can take yourself lightly and still take your work seriously. Don’t treat your work as a joke — even I don’t do that! Take what you do seriously, but take yourself lightly. Take the way people react to you lightly, humorously. As Mary Pettibone Poole says, “He who laughs, lasts.”

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