Art Linkletter died today. Few entertainers could make people laugh like Art Linkletter. Or perhaps it would be better to say that Art had a gift for encouraging kids to “say the darndest things” which in turn made us laugh.
The story that you may not know is that this man who had a love for laughter had a life filled with hardship and tragedy. He was born in 1912 to an unwed mother. In time she felt she could not care for him and so she left him on the steps of a Baptist Church. The Linkletter’s – traveling evangelists – adopted him. They moved to San Diego when he was 7, but times were hard. As he got older, his adoptive parents required that he get part-time jobs to help the family…instead he ran away and lived as a hobo, riding the rails across the country…working when he could.
Later in life, tragedy struck when his son-in-law committed suicide. Then his 20 year old daughter Dian, suffering from the recurring effects of LSD, jumped to her death from her sixth floor Hollywood apartment. Ten years later, his son Robert died in a car accident. During this time, Art wrestled with God for the why’s. He had taken on the faith of his adoptive parents, but in the midst of tragedy that faith became real as he sought a deeper joy. In a 1990 interview Mr. Linkletter said, “Life is not fair…not easy. But I’m an optimist. Even though I’ve had tragedies in my life, and I’ve seen difficult things, I still am an optimist.” It was this faith-driven optimism that allowed him to find the smiles even in the midst of tragedy.
I’ve had a bit of a smile theme going this week. So in the interest of smiling, watch the video — Linkletter at his best. I love the “Our Father who art in heaven” and the “Catholic Baptist” responses. Enjoy and smile. You’ll feel better.