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 me. Her little nose was running, and she was coughing. Quite a bit, actually. She coughed and coughed.
I smiled indulgently. 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 was slightly alarmed by all the germs that were being launched my way.
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.
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 infected family turned with warm, open smiles to share the peace of the Lord along with the bubonic plague.
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.
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. That bug was probably resistant to anything modern medicine could throw at it.
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. Maybe I should start wearing a haz-mat suit to church. With the careless disregard some people show for others, it will be a miracle if I don’t end up sick as a dog inside 24 hours.
But here’s the point I’m trying to make; it’s important to set aside time each week with others of our faith family, to give 100% of our attention to God.