A fine line between dealing with a crisis, but also finding the humor in it.

Puppies create mess and chaos, but they also give love and hope.

Describing this muddy puppy means walking the line between including both the mess and the humor she creates.

Walking a fine line and giving hope

I found such hope in books. Their authors walked the fine line of leveling with me about the troubles in this world, while at the same time giving me hope for a life beyond hard circumstances. The good books gave me at least the thrill of recognition–“there is someone else like me, who feels like I feel, who has gone through this trouble.” The best books gave me an inkling of a passage through my issues and beyond. These books struck a balance. On one hand such authors were unflinchingly honest in telling a credible tale of crisis. On the other hand, these authors included the humor we are all going to find in life—even in times of hardship.

The fine line between misery and humor.


In A Thing of Beauty, Becky Ramey has a thoroughly miserable first day of school in a new community. She wanders lost and almost everyone she meets is too absorbed in their own “beginning-of-school” struggles to help. Some boys try to deceive her, attempting to steer Becky to the inevitable “swimming pool on the second story of a one-story building.” However, she creates her own deception for the boys, and also creates school-wide chaos. Her rumor of an impending football celebrity visit circulates and complicates the first-day havoc a principal must control. Ironically, misery and humor can be companions in middle school. That’s just the way it is.

Walking the fine line gives hope

I am still working to strike this trouble/humor balance. In one of my most recent novels, a boy’s struggles with poverty, theft, a neighborhood beset by crime, and his brother’s incarceration. A chapter that grim needs the comic relief of a lovesick dachshund named “Bratwurst.” Kids need honesty. They also need humor. So do we.

Abandoning the fine line means losing hope.

Popular thirty-to-forty-five minute television programs go for the easy laughs and quick solutions. Whatever adults may believe about their children’s innocence, the kids understand that life is not that tidy. The best stories give us a window into both the struggles and the joys in life. This honesty does much more than entertain. It validates the plain evidence of our eyes. Candor does not minimize the truth of crisis. Rather, candor affirms the truth of joy and laughter in the midst of it all. A child or an adult could have no better grounding.



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