Bill Cosby once said, “Through humor you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.”
That’s been my mantra all my life.
I was 11 years old when my older sister died in an automobile accident. My family got through it by remembering all the zany antics she was known for and laughing harder with each retelling of the stories. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to sit for hours attached to an IV full of chemotherapy drugs, we patients would crank up the radio and dance around the treatment room floor with our poles, hooting and hollering until the nurses got agitated.
My mother used to refer to this as “whistling past the graveyard.”
A few years back, at a sports bar in North Carolina, the light over a table for two snapped its cord and fell to the table top. It shattered into little pieces and spilled glasses of draft beer into the couple’s laps. All conversation in the room stopped as other patrons stared in shock. Without missing a beat, the bartender came over and said, “OH! I’m sorry. You wanted a BUD light.” (If you don’t remember the ad campaign from the late ‘80s, this won’t mean a thing to you.) But immediately, the whole bar was in stitches and there was a round for all on the house. No angry exchanges or mentioning of law suits. The laughter immediately wiped out the “oops!”
Every business has a such an “oops” moment. However it’s not the mistake that really matters, it’s how the mistake is handled. Handled defensively and with a “too bad” attitude, it’s an “oops” with an “Oh, no” added to it. Handled with a sense of humor and an “I want to make this right” attitude, the “oops” rises to the level of “darn it.”
A church down in Port Charlotte was proud of its new newsletter. The graphics were snazzy, and it had recently purchased a color printer, making the publication look highly professional. But no amount of slick paper or modern logo could overcome the misprint that read, “Dog is always within you.”
Six-hundred copies were printed before the mistake was noticed. So the following month the editor slyly created a “letter” thanking the church for recognizing and supporting all of the dyslexic members of the congregation. It was so popular the church’s youth group made up T-shirts with “Dog is always within you” to wear whenever they were out doing community service work.
I’ve often been accused of having a warped sense of humor, and I own up to that. The older I get the more warped I get. But it comes in handy when you’re working with 488 businesses and thousands of residents. It’s like herding cats. Having a sense of humor helps. I may not be passing a graveyard, but I’m whistling just the same.
Dana Dittmar is CEO of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce.