Celebrate National Humor Month with a smile!
By Chris Hammerlund
April being National Humor Month, it's a pretty good month to remember one of your Illinois neighbors, Hunter Doherty Adams. Never heard of Hunter Doherty Adams who lives in Urbana these days? Of course you have.
He's the real funny-faced doctor “Patch Adams” made famous by Robin Williams in the movie of the same name. Actually, Adams was made famous by himself long before Robin Williams came along.
He's devoted his life to caring for people who spend most of their lives in the rips of the health safety net. In the first 10 years of his official medical career, he treated 15,000 patients for free.
He was his own national health insurance plan. He's a doctor with different point of view.
This is sort of his month because Adams has always believed that humor was a tool to keep people healthy. But not a silly, feel-good sort of trick. An actual medically valid tool.
He's sort of a holistic medical holy warrior and though the movie that bears his name portrayed him as a mostly well-meaning eccentric, the real Patch Adams has spent his life as a tough - minded civic activist.
His teams of volunteers still gather every year, load up their clown makeup, bright colored fright wigs and head off to a remote foreign locale to deliver medical expertise - and laughs.
The thing to remember about Adams is that humor is a not a casual affectation to him. It's a way to face health troubles and triumph over them. He believes the power of a large unrestrained laugh, a wide smile and an open heart can cure what some medicines can't. He's teaching us to take care of ourselves with laughter. Love is not a grim duty. It's joyous. And Adams has always taught that the healthy person is firmly planted in a community of shared joy, a family of care and a sense of happiness.
It's one of those ideas that seem “new age” now, but in 100 years the concept will seem so obvious that no one needs to defend it. Remember the days when we thought acupuncture was some goofy hocus-pocus?
Adams used his own funny faces to help conquer his own depression. And then he went global.
So this is his month in a real, meaningful way. But he won't keep it to himself because being funny is only real if your share it. Science already knows that laughter has positive physical effects.