By W. Fekken

One fine summer evening I was sitting with a friend on the beach. The sun slowly set and etched as a last farewell a golden rim round the clouds that, like a row of mountains, stood silently on the horizon. It gave us both a sense of peace and happiness; each of us was occupied with his own thoughts and we had not uttered a world for a long time. Suddenly my friend began to laugh.

"Why do you laugh?" I asked. To me there was nothing to laugh at with that picture in front of us.

"Well," my friend answered, "I cannot help laughing at myself here. My thoughts went back for a few moments to the days I have spent in my office. How important I sometimes feel there! I was just laughing a little at the businessman and at how easily he is upset by any disappointment that comes along. It is just as if I were quite another man here, watching that other man in the office."

He laughed again, and when I looked at him I saw how boyish his face was at that moment. Then we laughed together.

This little experience has frequently come to my mind when I felt important in some way, or had other small troubles, and then I could laugh a little at myself in the same way my friend did. I have often wondered what is the explanation of such a liberating laugh . It seems to me that there must be something in every human being that transcends the person of every day. I cannot give it a name, but sometimes it s presence can be felt as an inner companion or guide, as one of our best friends, and I think we are very fortunate when we hear this companion laugh.

A simple story in a monthly attracted my attention. A chaplain had been conducting a service aboard ship. At its conclusion a sailor came up to him and said: "That was a great sermon, sir."

"Will you tell me why you thought so?" asked the chaplain.

The sailor thought a moment, then replied: "It was great, because it took something out of your heart and put it in mine."

Is this not the most beautiful way to convey a truth to another? The heart -- not the physical heart, but that spiritual center which is the core of our being -- is an eternal source of forces that the human eye cannot see and the mind cannot grasp. But in those rare moments when we are completely unselfish, a "nobody" as far as our personal self is concerned, with an irresistible urge from within to sacrifice something from our heart for the benefit of others, a gate may be opened through which an impersonal stream of love and compassion can flow. Then we find words which have an energy behind them that is understood by the simplest individual who, through an effort to develop altruism in his own nature, catches the vibration and may even grasp the meaning of a deep religious or philosophical truth through intuition.

  • (From Sunrise magazine)

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