Sitting down for breakfast at a hotel the other day I opened the USA Today sports section and the first thing to pop out at me was a typo. I admit it; while I don’t scour for newspaper errors, I get a kick out of finding them.
And there was my laugh of the day, on the top of the sports section: There should be a place for Jaromir Jagr in the NFL.
The NFL? Ummm, Jaromir Jagr has never played in the NFL. He’s a hockey player, so I doubt he will ever find a place there. I don’t know too much about hockey (though I watch the Nashville Predators a lot), but I do know Jaromir Jagr plays in the NHL.
I chuckled privately to myself, knowing I had caught the Goliath USA Today in a mistake. Next, I snapped a picture to post it on Facebook. Everyone else had to know of my find. Perhaps it would go viral, and I would be famous for my tremendous wit in pointing out the paper’s faux pas.
Quickly I wrote on Facebook, “Just spitballing here, but Jaromir Jagr is a hockey player; the NFL might not be the place for him. #Typo #USAToday.”
Okay, this wasn’t exactly Robert Frost stuff, but for early in the morning, not bad at all.
I hit the “post” key and waited for the “likes” to come rolling in. Dang, I’m hilarious.
In a few minutes, I checked the responses. The first, from a friend in Michigan, wasn’t what I expected: “So auto-correct didn’t like spitballing but did like sitballing?”
Sitballing? What the heck! I have no idea what sitballing is but when I rechecked my feed, sure enough; auto-correct on my new phone had destroyed my first post of the day.
Going into recovery mode, I edited my post, replied to my Michigan friend so her comment would not look out of place once I fixed my own, then took a deep breath. Momentum was gone. I haven’t bothered to see if I got any likes. My dream of notoriety was shattered. Back to the reality of being a regular joe schmo.
But, as with so many things in my life, it got me thinking about something else.
Not to beat myself up, but my attempt at humor (I left it up on my Facebook page as a reminder)) was at someone else’s expense. Whether a layout artist, a copywriter or a headline writer, someone made a small mistake. And I could not help myself from making fun of it.
What’s funny is when I typed my Facebook post, “NHL” auto-corrected to “NFL.” I noticed and corrected auto-correct, but still. Someone at USA Today probably had the same problem and simply didn’t pick up on it. In the big scheme of things, no big deal.
Yet I spent ten minutes pointing out someone’s miscue. And of course, while pointing it out I had a typo, too. Right back at ‘ya, Kirk.
Now, I doubt anyone got fired and my little Facebook post is likely not some major, egregious sin against humanity.
But still I have to ask myself, “Did my attempt at humor–at someone else’s expense–help anyone?” Well, no.
I love humor. I like to laugh; I tell stories to audiences all over the country, many of them designed to provoke thought and laughter. It’s okay. But my stories are at my expense; no one else pays a price.
Again, my USA Today post is not the biggest deal in the world.
But Paul wrote in Ephesians, “And there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather thanksgiving.” He didn’t write, “But a little humor at the expense of another is fine, just do so in moderation.”
What I wrote was hardly “filthy” or “coarse.” I was just being silly, making fun of someone unknown to me, somewhere. Because the person at USA Today is anonymous to me, I didn’t think it was a big deal. And again, it’s not the end of the world.
But Paul says that if I want a faith like his–a 1st Faith–I need to get rid of the silliness and spend that time on thanksgiving instead. I doubt he is saying we cannot laugh, or that kidding around with our friends is off-limits. Hardly.
And if something is wrong and important, we may have an obligation to point it out.
For instance, when an airline lost my luggage I pointed it out on Twitter; not to make fun or tell my friends about the airline’s “horrible” public service, but to receive help finding my bag. The airline answered and gave me information so I could make alternate plans. When the bag showed up, I thanked them on Twitter for working with me. We all make mistakes; they fixed theirs and deserved commendation.
But silliness at another’s expense? I need to think about this.
If I truly want to spread a 1st Faith just like Paul and others did, there’s no time in my day for pointing out the foibles of others just for sport. That’s just silliness, and I should have better things to do.