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Gift of Laughter
 
There was a time a fear of storms controlled my life. I have written about this fear many times. I even have found a lot of humor in looking back at how ridiculous the things I did were when I was "on the run" from a storm.  I have often tried to put my finger on the exact time the fear began and where it came from.  I never found that time. It was as if it  always existed even in my earliest childhood memories.  I remember my mother would scream really loudly if it thundered and we would go find shelter. I would shake uncontrollably until I got to the safe place, but once there all was well. 
 
Yes, amazingly amidst all the memories of fright some happy memories were born.
Many a night when a storm was raging I ended up in the  basement of the house at 1316 Erin Street.  The house belonged to my Aunt Lou. Even though Lou had the house with the basement where everyone ran when storms were coming, I never saw her exhibit any fear of storms or anything else really.   
 
In the basement there was always laughter. It was a party. I always looked forward to being there.  If it was an all night party Lou Allie would break out the sleeping bags for me and my sister. If it was a come and go party, we never got to go without having food, good food, junk food.  She always had chips and dip and homemade chocolate chip cookies or cake.
She laughed constantly. I still remember her laugh.
 
When I was twelve or so Hurricane Camille came to Mississippi.  It was still packing a punch when it reached Tupelo.  On the stormy day it reached our little town, I was in the car with Aunt Lou on the way to Amory.   Even though I possessed great fear she kept me calm on the ride through the torrential rain, wind, and lightning. She told me such funny stories,  I forgot it was even coming a storm.
 
 Lou worked for Lowe's Portrait Studio in phone sales.  My sister and I went with her to the studio in Amory  to "help."  The help involved a little work and a lot of laughter. 
I still remember the speech Aunt Lou made to those she called and to some she allowed my sister and I to call.
 
Hi this is ___________with Lowe's Portrait Studio. I am calling today to give you a chance to win a beautiful 16 x 20 color portrait of yourself or anyone you choose if you can give me the correct  answer to a simple question....YOU will WIN!!" 
Are you ready for your question?
Whose picture appears on a one dollar bill?
 
The question was usually  followed by one of the following:  silence,  huh?, George Washington, or a plethora of other answers.  Some people would ask for a hint. Mind you this was long before the game show concept of lifelines.  At that point Lou would say "He chopped down a cherry tree."  Those who gave the right answer did win and they would then be asked for their address to which the coupon for the free portrait would be delivered within one week.  Of course the "winners" were then lured into buying an entire portrait package when the "free 16x 20" was shot, but many did just happily take the free portrait they had won because of their vast knowledge of the US Treasury system.
 
Lou found comedy in every single call, even if the people were mean and nasty to her, she was never mean and nasty. She just laughed.
I remember laughing so hard tears rolled down our cheeks daily.
 
All this laughter may sound uneventful to some, normal to some, not really notable news for a twelve year old girl to be laughing, but in my life laughter was not the norm and it was very notable. 
 
Today I remember all the smiles and laughter from my Aunt Lou and say thank you.
Aunt Lou passed away Friday at the age of 89.  I believe she is now in Heaven still laughing.
 
The memory verse my children's Sunday School class had last week was "Each one should use whatever gift he has to serve others." I Peter 4:10  I believe my Aunt Lou Vails applied that verse to her life daily as she served others through her gift of laughter she graciously shared.  Are you using your gift to serve others?
 
jbp