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Winning Words

Waiting for the punch line? Stay hopeful if it never comes


There is nothing like a good joke or very clever story that captivates us and then makes us laugh or think a little deeper based on the punch line. The timing and delivery of the joke or story and the punch line itself are both very important to the success of the joke or story and how it is received.

As we watch in horror sometimes at what is happening locally and globally, I'll bet there are people out there like me who are still waiting for that "punch line" to be delivered. But sadly and unfortunately, the punch line never comes, and as a matter of fact, typically the story, or what we thought might have been a prank or joke only gets worse and results in intended or unintended tragedy. Sorry, no punch line here.

An example may be, "Hey did you hear about the people on board a major airline carrier? So get this, they were sitting on the plane, already seated and the flight crew announces that they need four seats and that paying customers would have to be willing to give up their seat for credit and a flight home the next day. And then the flight crew says ..." Oops, again no punch line here. "So the flight crew, gate agents, pilot, operations team, and security personnel of a major airline got together to see how they could get four paying passengers off of an airplane so that they could get four of their own staff on to the plane." So the pilot says ..., or the person in charge of security says ..., or the flight crew says ..., or any one of them says "Why don't we just take people out of their seats. That has to be our best option." Wait, what? Where is the punch line here, certainly there has to be one.

Now imagine you didn't know that this event really happened, you might be waiting for the punch line or ending to a funny story. But the ending wasn't funny, there was no "punch line," only stunned disbelief. Now sometimes a reaction like stunned disbelief is what a storyteller or comedian may be going for, however I am sure that this major airline was not looking to have a ridiculous incident erupt into stunned disbelief across the world.

We watch every day in stunned disbelief don't we? We don't know what is real or what is fake when it comes to the news do we? And even when we know it to be absolutely true, we still watch or listen in stunned disbelief, waiting for that punch line or some sign or hint that is was just a joke or prank or simply just not real. And we do this because although we live amongst the chaos and situations where we have no control or where we have not participated in any way shape or form, we look for the punch line or good news turnaround because we live with hope. The goal is that the majority of the hopeful will be able to bring back the hopeless from the brink of stunned disbelief and hopelessness.

There was an episode of the television show "Seinfeld" where Jerry and George are on a double date. George asks Jerry not to be funny so that his date would not find Jerry attractive. Jerry pouts most of the evening, comes across as dark and depressed and then he makes this statement when asked why he was so sad, "There is just too much sadness in the world to be happy." Obviously this was a sitcom and that line was intended as a punch line or comedic statement.

Our world is filled with very sad and serious situations; they are not laughing matters at all. To fix them or attempt to fix them we have to balance our fear, anger, anxiety, and angst with hope and encouragement, love and kindness, love and forgiveness. Not tolerance and not political correctness, but hope and encouragement, love and kindness, and love and forgiveness.

So how about you, are you waiting in stunned disbelief and for somehow some way a punch line will bring closure to a sad or tragic event, or have you figured out how to filter the noise and news in such a way where you can live with hope, encouragement, and love? I would love to hear all about it at gotonorton@gmail.com, and when we can rise above the hopelessness by living with hope, it really will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a resident of Castle Rock, the former president of the Zig Ziglar Corporation, a strategic consultant and a business and personal coach.

Michael Norton


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