August 10, 2018

Short Bursts of Humour by Sharon Espeseth

A merry heart does good, like medicine
Proverbs 17:22
We are surrounded by them. We share them every day. They break up tension and they are publishable. An anecdote, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is "a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident." My husband, Hank, tells these kinds of stories.

My dad, Ernie, was also a master of this oral tradition. He told anecdotes about his grandchildren and about the characters among his coffee buddies, neighbours, and fellow church-goers.

Take "Roughbox," for example. One day, Dad's undertaker friend Elmer, known as Roughbox, had to transport two deceased persons from the small town where he lived to another, bigger town where the funeral was to take place. The vehicle Roughbox used as hearse had room for only one body in the back, so he propped up the second one in the passenger seat and drove to the funeral home. 

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I included some of Dad's anecdotes in a story called, "Dad the Storyteller," which may some day be included in a memoir.

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Anecdotes are like short bursts of humour. You tell a short-short story with a surprise or comical ending. Keep your ears tuned and you'll find these stories close by--even in your own home. Both Hank and "Ernie" are good sources  for material and I've gleaned a few of my own.

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Here's one that appeared in Christian Reader, Sept./Oct. 1999 and later in an anthology, Help, I Can't Stop Laughing. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2006.

My five-year-old nephew, Carman, known to be a picky eater, was at my parents' place for dinner. Dad's rule was that you must taste a little of everything on you plate. Looking at his food, Carman asked, "Grandpa, would it be okay if I asked God to help me with my dinner.?"

Never wanting to discourage his grandchildren's faith, Dad agreed. Carman bowed his head and silently prayed. He then divided up the food on his plate and ate what he liked. "What about the rest?"  Dad asked. "That's God's part," Carman replied.

I think there's a lesson in this story for each of us. When life is going well, we take charge. Then, when life gets rough, we say, "Now I need God's help!"

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The story below was also in the anthology, Help, I Can't Stop Laughing, as mentioned above.

Pinterest Free Image

At the spring wedding of an older couple, my parents waited with the rest of the guests for the celebration to begin. The church organist played through her entire repertoire of wedding songs, but nothing happened. Not wanting to repeat herself, she continued with Easter hymns in keeping with the season. Soon the door to the pastor's study opened. A shaky, ashen groom appeared just as the organist completed the first line of "Up from the Grave He Arose."

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Here's one of my mini-stories that was published in "Life's Like That" in Readers Digest, June 2009.

"Are you eating meat these days," my husband asked our niece, an occasional vegetarian, as we prepared for her visit, "or should we sacrifice a head of lettuce?"

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One of my anecdotes was published in "Kids say the cutest things!" in Woman's World on January 4, 2005. They still publish this column, which is now called,  "Kids are funny!" (Check WW's complete writing guidelines for other writing opportunities.) But here's my anecdote, tightened up a bit from their publication.

My sister had been trying to quit smoking and our kids were eager to help her. One day after school, our daughter Jenny burst through the front door with news about how Auntie Joan could quit smoking. "How?" I asked. "By eating cold turkey," Jenny confidently replied. 

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Ecclesiastes 3, as translated in The Message, begins, "There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
The name Isaac in Hebrew means "He laughs." (Pinterest)

In verse 3 and 4, we continue this sentence with-- 

A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer. . .

Let's cheer one another with good stories that bring joy and cause us to laugh--like Sarah. When God delivered on his promise that she was going to have a baby in her old age, Sarah recognized that God has a sense of humour. (Genesis 21:6) The name Isaac means "He laughs" in Hebrew.


  1. this was absolutely delightful! I truly did smile and laugh at these anecdotes. I think I laughed most at the wedding one... "up from the grave he arose!"

  2. Thanks, Tracy. I'm glad you enjoyed my anecdotes. This may inspire others to write down these little stories that pack a punch.

  3. Thanks for the chuckles, Sharon
    I need to start writing anecdotes down :)

    1. Good idea, Ruth. I'm sure you would have lots of good anecdotes around you. :-)

  4. Thanks for the reminder to keep a sense of humour even in the tough times, Sharon. A great idea for a story.

  5. That is true, Sheri. Thanks for mentioning that.

  6. I remember that comment and B saved that Readers Digest article for me and I didn't even know that til now

  7. Our niece, Alice, referring to Hank's vegetarian anecdote above, says, "I was a little bit more dedicated (to being a vegetarian) than that." Still she does remember Hank saying the part about sacrificing a head of lettuce and her husband saved the Reader's Digest article for her.

    I told Alice, in so many words, that a teller of anecdotes and a writer of stories can ruffle a few crinolines. Thanks for being a good sport, Alice. My nephew Carman, referred to as a picky eater, laughs and he also accepts my apologies.

    Notoriety is better than no attention at all. Thanks for your comment, Alice and being a good sport. Thanks to Carman as well.

  8. Thank you Sharon for this delightful selection of stories. I have always loved the idea of little anecdotes that make us smile and bring home a point, we have more than enough reasons to be sad in life. I agree with your call for us to "cheer one another with good stories that bring joy and cause us to laugh--like Sarah."

  9. Over the years, both my dad and my husband have enlivened many a conversation at dinner, coffee time, or whenever. They've added life to many occasions and most certainly to the life I've shared with them. Glad you enjoyed the samples I've shared, Jocelyn.


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