I saw the ‘man laughing on the train’ video on social media recently – and it’s a classic. There’s nothing quite like a good laugh.
The scene is set with a train full of people. All heading in the same direction but minding their own business, not daring to look one another in the eye. Headphones on, eyes straight ahead, no one says hello and rarely does anyone share so much as a smile. The only noise is the opening and closing of doors, the whooshing as the train gathers speed and the quiet chatter of friends or business colleagues.
Everybody knows the rules. Everybody knows what it is to be normal, to fit in, and how to not stand out in the crowd.
Except for one man; and he’s having the time of his life.
It starts with a smile, then a light chuckle that quickly turns into a full, hearty laugh.
And that laughter, of course, is infectious. At first, it is embarrassed smiles, strange glances and knowing sniggers between friends. But before long even the scowls turn to smiles and we see a train full of laughing people.
This one man, seemingly obliviously, has broken the ice. He’s laughed out loud and then kept on laughing. He’s broken through the awkward silence, sliced through the tension and induced smiles and laughter between strangers. He’s created a light-heartedness that wasn’t there before.
There is something so beautiful in that moment and it makes me smile every time.
And then (of course) I find myself digging a little deeper.
Here we see a bunch of individuals living their separate lives, but all heading in the same direction. Strangers brought together—albeit slightly awkwardly—due to their shared journey. In reality, they share no more than the train ride (and frankly, they have no desire to) but the inhibitions of one man breaks their isolation and lightens the mood.
Chatting to my daughters the other day, I thought of that train ride. I thought of how as families, or even with our friends, we sometimes act just like those strangers on the train. We may be heading in the same direction but we can get so caught up in our own agendas that we find ourselves with our headphones on, not meeting each other’s eyes, no longer sharing our dreams or fears and scowling at any uninvited interruptions. Relationships can feel heavy, tense and uncomfortable and we find ourselves plodding along—like work horses with our blinkers on—focused on our task and just desperate to reach our destination without too many unexpected trip-hazards.
Just like on that train, sometimes we need to break away from the status quo. We may need to break through the ice that has frosted over and created hostility, animosity, coldness or just plain irritability and grumpiness. Perhaps we need to squeeze ourselves out of the mould, lighten up, laugh at ourselves or find something to laugh at that’s quite removed from our present situation. Sometimes it might mean taking a break or walking a different way. Maybe turning up the music and choosing to dance when we would normally drag our feet. Or taking a deep breath, releasing our fists and shaking out the tension. Perhaps we need to find someone to help us see our situation from a different perspective, seek out those who truly make us laugh out loud, or be intentional about enjoying fun times with our loved ones.
Choosing to share the lighter side of life, and learning to laugh together, can pierce through the tension. It can help us release our grip on that which we are holding too tightly and encourage us to build one another up, rather than getting caught in the competition and suspicion.
It may just be a beginning, but I believe it’s a jolly good place to start.
And to the funny man on the train – thank you, you’ve inspired me. Here’s to flying in the face of the status quo and choosing to laugh out loud!
(Click on this link to check out the video and have a chuckle!)