By Candace Echols
Last week, I had the opportunity to drop into the lives of three people and interview them for another publication. When I write Yellow Chair ChronEchols for Storyboard, all the words are mine and I get to share my thoughts and ideas. So, initially, I thought it would be terribly limiting and potentially boring to only author questions for an interview. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I was asked to interview a mother/daughter artistic team, and after that, a fashion designer. The mother on the artistic team just turned 80 in December and she is sitting on a thriving business endeavor that’s just three years old. Just before this, she homeschooled her grandchildren and organized their high school prom, decorations and all. She had dark hair and bangs and killer one-liners that left me cackling. She’s one of those remarkable people they write stories about. Now that I think of it, she’s one of those remarkable people I write stories about – I couldn’t have been happier to do it!
The fashion designer/daughter was as hip as they come, in the prime of life, and about to head to L.A. to curate her summer line. Her hair is bleach blonde in some of her Instagram pics and bright red in others. She has a husky voice and great depth to her ideas. Prior to designing stunning clothing lines, she was a songwriter and still ghostwrites for a Russian artist.
The two couldn’t have been more different.
With that publication I am allowed to assemble my own list of questions, and since those are the only words I contribute to the article, I dang sure want them to be good! We aren’t staying on the surface. People are multi-layered, and I will peel back what they will comfortably allow. Makes for better writing. And far better reading.
However, I am required to finish every interview with one specific question: Aside from faith, family, and friends, what are three things you cannot live without? The 80-year-old artist and the 30-ish-year-old fashion designer have lived very different lives, but I was shocked to hear them say the exact same thing for what they each cannot live without.
Had I been guessing, I might have thought they would say something like travel, because traveling to other places always inspires artsy people. Or maybe, a heart of gratitude because maybe they’ve been given a lot. Or perhaps a certain vice like chocolate or cigarettes.
But they didn’t say any of those things. They both, right out of the gate, led with this: a healthy sense of humor. As a matter of fact, the 80-year-old recommended one good, hard, silent belly laugh every day.
They knew about this question in advance, so they had time to think about it. Even having given it thought, they landed on the same idea, that laughter is vital to their success. You know those moments when some truth stops you in your tracks and gets your attention in a way you cannot deny or look past? That’s what that was for me.
Do I laugh? And do I laugh enough? Is it a shallow laugh that bubbles only from that area at the back of my throat and fools no one, or does it start in the gut? In the soul? Does it incorporate all of who I am and make me feel better as soon as it passes, even if I didn’t feel bad before? Am I so consumed with getting the next thing done, whatever it is, that I forget to laugh?
At our house, we love America’s Funniest Home Video. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this because it’s so simple, people being people and catching it on camera. But I have noticed something: there’s a slowness to life required to catch an idiot move or novice mistake on camera, and then take time to stop and laugh at it. I’m not sure I do that enough. Funny things happen, but I don’t stop to laugh. Maybe I laugh as I think about it later (and the after-laugh is of value) or as I’m in motion to the next task, but what these women taught me was that life is found in the laughter. Whatever the cost in efficiency, it’s worth it.
It shouldn’t surprise me that God says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” I forget that he made laughter! He made it to be like medicine and he created it as a gift to people of all sorts—artists like these women—and me and you, too. Laughter reveals something of God himself and we benefit when we stop to consider what that might be. What do we hear of God in the giggle of a toddler, the chortle of an old man, or the hysterical laugh of a teenager who has just been embarrassed in a funny way that will forever be a good memory? What does your own laughter reveal deep in your gut about God?
I honestly don’t know the full answer to this question because I don’t stop to laugh very often. As a mother of five little children, I am the first to admit what a travesty that is. What a waste of the gifts of children, of beautiful days, of life and even of breath!
This very day, the Thursday that I’m writing this, I promise to you, dear reader, that I will intentionally pursue one good belly laugh today. And tomorrow. I can’t really create it, but I can open my eyes to spaces where it already exists all around me. And so can you. I invite you to reach out to me on social media and tell me how it goes (Instagram: @candaceecholswrites). I would sincerely like to know.
According to these two artists who are wildly different from one another and represent different generations, laughter is key to our creativity.
According to our Creator, laughter is key to our life.
StoryBoard features “The Yellow Chair ChronEchols” by writer Candace Echols. Candace recently published her first book, the children’s book Josephine and the Quarantine. Candace is a Midtown resident, wife, and mother of five. She has written for StoryBoard’s Page One Writing Workshops, and writes in quiet moments from her yellow chair.