Hope, Humor and Chicken Nuggets
by Erin Bruzda
Despite the abundance of government resources devoted to the overwhelming problem of suicide, it continues to rise among Alaska Native and First Nations youth. InterAct missionaries are uniquely qualified to bring the hope of the gospel to the distressed. While it is painful and exhausting to walk alongside these young men and women through the shadow of death, we can point them to the Healer of souls by doing so.
A missionary with InterAct recently shared their unique way of creating a safe place of freedom for First Nations youth to open up. Names have been changed to protect identities and respect their stories. Johnny (name changed), who works with First Nations youth in Manitoba, shared a recent experience at a McDonald’s that made a lasting impact.
“Currently, one of my favorite things to do is fast food runs with the First Nations youth I serve. I’m not the biggest McDonald’s fan, but it’s one of the youth’s favorite places to go. We grab food and chill in my car while driving to counseling appointments or youth nights, listening to music and talking about life. It’s been a great place for me to ask questions, listen and be a light in those moments as they process some hard things in their lives.
There often isn’t much talking in the car until we pick up some chicken nuggets, and then it’s as if a ray of sunshine washes through the vehicle. Never underestimate the power of chicken nuggets. I have learned something, especially from our youth on reserve, that you have to appreciate little things when dealing with overwhelming grief. Chicken nuggets, making dumb jokes and finding humor in life can bring joy in difficult seasons. There is something powerful about laughing together, and it never minimizes what’s happening—everyone knows and is in it together.
Their sadness remains as I try to create space for them to cry and receive comfort. But a little humor goes a long way. It allows everyone to come up for a breath, a moment of reprieve and recovery. This use of humor in native culture was jarring to me at first. Now experiencing what it’s like to be dealing with grief as often as they do, I see it as a means of survival. It is something that I deeply respect in native culture. There is a time for laughter and a time for crying—and sometimes laughter is the medicine that is needed.”
Laughter is part of a universal language of basic emotions that all humans recognize. The saying, “Laughter is the best medicine,” comes from Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” There are spiritual, emotional and physical benefits of joy and laughter—it’s good for our health.
Many psychologists and researchers have confirmed this truth found in the Bible. Even the great reformer Martin Luther used humor as an integral part of pastoral counseling. He advised individuals suffering from depression to remove themselves from isolation and surround themselves with friends with whom they could joke and laugh.
InterAct missionaries have the opportunity to speak into the lives of those weighed down by pain, loss and regret. Living side-by-side in the communities of people we serve affords us the opportunity to be witnesses of the Light in the darkest times. We share the life-changing message of forgiveness of sin and the prospect of eternity in the presence of a loving Father. We bring hope! Sometimes the door to gospel hope opens up in a car with music blasting and chicken nuggets.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,”
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1,4)