A large family with an adorable toddler sat in the pew in front of us at church the other day. She made a game of reaching her arms out to be passed from person to person in the family, up and down the line. The poor poppet had a cold.
Most of the time she sat on Momma’s lap, right in front of us. Her little nose was running, and she was coughing. Quite a bit, actually. She coughed and coughed.
I smiled indulgently, although I was slightly alarmed by all the germs that were being sent my way. Sometimes Grandma would hoist her up to look around. My eyes met her sparkling little eyes. Sparkling because of fever, no doubt, to go along with her runny nose. Cough, cough, and cough over Grandma’s shoulder, about a foot from my face.
I started breathing shallowly to block some of the bacteria shooting straight out of her mouth in my direction.
Another child joined the coughing chorus two pews back.
You could practically see the miasma of germs surrounding the child’s little head, though Momma tried to cover her mouth. I had to wonder why someone would bring an obviously, gravely ill child out in public to put the healthy population at risk.
Our church does something called the sign of peace about ¾ of the way through the service. You turn to each neighbor, shake hands and wish one another peace.
I tried to breathe even more shallowly.
When the time came: “Peace be with you” (shake, shake, infect). “Peace be with you “ (shake, shake, infect). Momma, Daddy, Grandma, Auntie, Auntie, every one of the plague carrier’s family turned with warm, open smiles to share the peace of the Lord along with the Andromeda strain.
I know Howard Hughes was a genuine nut case at the end. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a point. There are a lot of germs in the world, and with all the careless people around, it’s not hard to catch something. Maybe I should start wearing a facemask and gloves to church.
By the time the service was over, I was light-headed from barely breathing for the last 45 minutes, wondering whether it would be sacrilegious to break out the hand sanitizer in this holy place, and doubting it would do any good. The bug was probably antibiotic- resistant.
The point is, we should all try to set aside time each week to concentrate on God, whatever our view of him, in community with others of our faith family.