Seriously too serious

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Last week, a Goodwill store in Springfield posted an apology for a message that appeared on its sign earlier this month. The apology was recommended by Goodwill's corporate office after complaints were received regarding the original message, which read "Your husband called. He said you could buy whatever you want." The individuals who called to complain about the message said that it was offensive toward women because it implied that they needed to receive permission from a man to make purchases. Seriously?

Reading an article about the message and the ensuing public apology I began to wonder, do some of us take ourselves and others too seriously? If I had been driving down Battlefield Road and read the original message, I probably would have chuckled, shook my head and forgotten about it three stoplights later. How much impact does something like that have to make on someone to inspire them to call a corporate office to make a complaint?

The apology message that was posted on the Goodwill sign read "We apologize. We thought it was funny." Good point. The message was meant to be funny. It was not meant to hurt anyone, make anyone feel inferior or stir up controversy. It was just a quick attempt at humor that a staff member thought might draw passers-by into the store.

Did you know that laughter is an easy, natural stress reliever? In fact, laughter comes with all kinds of health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter stimulates organs, activates and relieves the stress response, soothes tension, improves the immune system, can relieve pain and increases personal satisfaction. Other sources claim that laughter can prevent heart disease, ease anxiety, enhance resilience, strengthen relationships, enhance teamwork, defuse conflict and promote group bonding.

I wonder if the individuals who called to voice complaints about the harmless message posted by a witty Goodwill employee took the time to think about the conflict caused by their complaint. I'm sure it resulted in paperwork, phone calls through the administrative chain and at least a mild reprimand of the employee who thought of the message. What started as a message to promote humor and well-being ended up becoming a stress inducer thanks to a few opinionated complainers.

As legislators begin to look at ways to help promote mental health programs, in part as an effort to decrease the number of violent incidents occuring across our country, we should each take time to reflect on our own lives and attitudes. Do we want to be a society that takes itself entirely too seriously by voicing complaints about Goodwill signs, or do we want to be one that promotes the importance of laughter and humor?

Lindsay Reed