Notes from Jan

On Laughter and Lions

March 13, 2020

The Corona Virus is no laughing matter. It’s deadly serious but to wrap ourselves in fear and cave to panic is an emotional and psychological killer. So, why laugh?  For one thing,”A merry heart’s good medicine.”(Proverbs 17:23)

This morning’s Boston Globe brought numbing news  about the spread of the virus, suspension of all sports, church and school closings,  plus lights out for theaters and large gatherings as  in”Admit None.” Tough decisions to slow the spread of the virus.

After absorbing all the reality I could handle, I turned to check out tonight’s television options.  PBS offered a program on Aging, affording me an opportunity to  sit and do just that.  Feeling desperate I headed for the comics. In the Bizarro strip by Wayno & Piraro I saw Snow White on the phone saying, “I’ve told you over and over.  All seven positions are filled.  If anything opens up, we’ll get in touch with you, Pushy.”

I laughed.

Out loud.

Fear does strange things.

Yesterday, in my final sprint to a grocery store for a while,  I steered my cart towards the household cleaning aisle  where a stranger said,  “Don’t forget toilet paper.” Not a smidgen of discomfort between us as he shared something so personal.    I’ve stockpiled enough to wrap myself  like a mummy  with sufficient leftovers to build a small wall. Why?  I guess when I couldn’t find Hand Sanitizers or Wipes, I did what I could to prepare for an extended stay indoors.

My neighbor just called to see if I needed anything.  She’s that kind of person.  I reassured her I was OK, then said, “If you ever need toilet paper, I’ve got plenty.”


Stuff has limits.  I prefer stockpiling stories.  Henri Nouwen shares one about Michelangelo in the February 7th entry in Harold Myra’s One Year Book of Encouragement.

“A small boy watched as the famous sculptor hammered and chiseled at a block of marble.  Pieces fell and flew away but the child had no idea what was happening.  Weeks later, the boy returned and was surprised by a large, powerful lion sitting in place where the marble block had stood. Excited, he ran to Michelangelo and asked, ‘Sir, tell me, how did you know there was a lion in the marble?”

God knows there’s more to us than meets the eye.

Once I get untangled from all this toilet paper, I hope to discover a lion, or, hopefully, some marble chips.

After all, there’s more to preparing for tough times than stockpiling stuff.









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  • Reply Randall Mathews March 13, 2020 at 1:38 pm

    Jan Carlberg:

    You are a “hoot.” Your sense of humor is so contagious. I laughed myself silly reading your latest blog. I am so thankful for your friendship. Indeed, you are a gift to the Mathews.

    Bless you and keep you, dear friend.

    Randy for the Mathews

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 13, 2020 at 2:01 pm

      Well, since I can’t toss a roll of TP all the way to Illinois, I’m grateful to share a ‘hoot” with you and Alice. You are two of God’s lions.

  • Reply Shirley Westrate March 13, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    I don’t know Randy Mathews, but we must have been laughing simultaneously! Ditto to his message above, “dear friend.”

  • Reply Jan Carlberg March 13, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    Happy to have shared lunch with you Tuesday and now a laugh, Shirley. It’s been a good week amidst much bad and sad news. No matter how it looks, in the end Good wins.

  • Reply David L Smith March 13, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    Seems like many have lost their marble (chips) during this time.

    Thnx, nice story.


    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 13, 2020 at 3:44 pm

      Good one, David. When the chips are down, you’re a lion, to be sure!

  • Reply Marylou Habecker March 13, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    Hi Jan! Somehow I “lost you” and now I have happily “found you” again! I didn’t realize you had a wonderful blog going! Of course you should have your amazing writing and speaking a talent somewheee for us all to hear and see!
    Thank you for the JOY you find in all things!
    This is a great piece!!! Love to you!!!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 13, 2020 at 3:45 pm

      What a sweet surprise to see your name pop up, Marylou. Sending sanitized hugs to you and Gene.

  • Reply Marylou March 13, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    Are you writing everyday? These are amazing. Hopefully you will put them into a book?!
    I would love to find out your current address. My email is :
    One of these days I will change the Taylor address….BUT…. so many accounts are attached to it!

  • Reply Dale March 13, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    Thanks Jan. It is not rude to both laugh and cry. We just need to know when to do which. It was a good laugh at the right time.

    Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 14, 2020 at 9:56 am

      Dale, your observation reminds me of Mary Oliver’s poem, “We shake with joy, we shake with grief. What a time they have, these two housed as they are in the same body.”

  • Reply Shirley Dubeau March 14, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Our daughter Emily (Dubeau) Shrader, you may remember her from Gordon, serves faraway across the pond.

    Here’s the CS Lewis quote Emily sent me:

    C.S. Lewis to the rescue … Below are his words written in 1948 during the atomic bomb “pandemic.”

    Take a few minutes to read C. S. Lewis’s words—written 72 years ago. They ring with relevance for us. Just replace “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus.”

    “In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’

    In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

    This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

    — “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

  • Reply Jan Carlberg March 14, 2020 at 10:19 am

    Wonderful and timely reminder, dear Shirley.

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