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Laughing in spite of it all

Five farm women share how they remain positive even in dire circumstances

When snow sets in on October 1, and half a bumper crop lies in the field; when the news is full of refugees and the days seem long and grey — it’s easy to succumb to the blues. Five farm women from Africa, Switzerland and Canada tell us how they laugh despite dire circumstances and cultivate a heart of thankfulness.

Vivienne Muluwa from Zambia is a small farmer with a full-time job as a professional secretary. Widowed twice, mother of six grown children, she has two adult children who cause her grief. Yet visits with Vivienne will always include much laughter. “It’s all about being positive about your circumstances,” Vivienne says, “not wishing for things you can never have.” Vivienne herself always strives for more — attending night classes to improve her education, walking long distances to have the farm she dreams of, and working hard at her day job. But in it all she stresses the importance of being content. “When others are negative about something, try and bring out a positive aspect of it,” she says. “Always imagine something good about a situation.” At the end of a difficult day, “drink a cup of tea with a friend and laugh. What else are you going to do?”

Her four young children often make Rebekka Gasser, a Swiss farm woman, laugh. “Kids can be so amusing and have such funny ideas,” she says. Rebekka finds joy in the small things in her life and often laughs at her own mistakes. “Staying orientated to what is really important in life helps to see a bad crop situation in a different light.” She tries to focus on solutions instead of getting bogged down in the negative. Taking time out to do something special for herself, and spending time with good friends with whom she can laugh help keep joy in her day.

Swiss egg farmer, Magdalena Pulfer, prefers to see the funny side of life rather than to walk through it dead serious. A cheerful comment made while waiting in line at the till will make three people laugh, she says. Often she’ll hug her more reserved husband with a light comment, and they’ll laugh together. Magdalena seeks to enjoy the little things — the flavour of a good coffee; blooming flowers; the neighbour who waves to her; happy moments with her family. It’s important to her to cultivate a thankful heart. When all around her are negative, she strives to bring a positive note to a situation or lighten it with a joke. Sometimes she also walks away in order not to get bogged down.

Sharon Rottier of Westlock, Alberta thinks she is more of a crier than a laugher by nature; that her nursing experiences have left their mark on her. “Joy is a force,” she says. “You do something to make yourself laugh.” She looks at funny pictures on Facebook or of little children. Sharon keeps a “Thank You” book, in which she writes five things each evening for which she was thankful. There’s always something, even if it seems mundane. “One of my biggest boosts is learning to trust God even in the rough circumstances; to see His good goodness.” Sharon classifies herself as a fighter: “I’m not going to let myself be pulled down!”

As fires threatened their ranch, the flames within half a mile of calving cows, Helen Harris of Fort St. John, B.C. and her neighbours got together for coffee. Stories were shared and laughed about together. “The absurd and difficult things become bearable as we remember a poignant moment with witty remarks,” Helen says. Even at funerals people will share stories and laugh together in the midst of grief. Helen has a small TV in the kitchen and watches shows such as “The Price is Right” while working. “They laugh a lot and someone is usually winning something.” When retelling an event, Helen will seek to do so in an entertaining way that ends in laughter. “A good belly laugh is very cleansing for the soul. It’s impossible to be stressed when you are laughing.” To maintain a positive attitude Helen reads good books and surrounds herself with people and things that make her feel good about herself.

“Laughter is a medicine on its own,” Vivienne Muluwa says. “It keeps away the wrinkles!”

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