The woman sitting next to me in my office (a.k.a. the Starbucks in Snellville) just sneezed on me. Now I’m not germ phobic, but I was a bit put off by the incident. You see, no “excuse me” followed the sneeze. It was a toss-up whether or not I was more disgusted by the lack of manners or the lack of proper hygiene.
The part of me that has never stopped being a middle school teacher wanted to prompt her with “and what do you say when you sneeze?” I was remarkably controlled, for me, and responded with a simple “bless you.” She nodded acknowledgement without looking at me. I guess she didn’t want to watch me wiping snot from my arm. I can’t blame her, really. It was not pretty.
Well, one thought led to another and I found myself pondering the reason I had just blessed this inconsiderate woman. Was I concerned for her health? I don’t think so, although I am hoping she didn’t have anything contagious. Or maybe I subscribed to the ancient belief that sneezing temporarily pulled a person’s soul out of the body and a blessing kept demons from taking it over. Did I want to make sure a demon didn’t inhabit her body? Um…no.
Possibly I thought that sneezing stopped a person’s heart and a blessing would restart it. I would prefer not to have to use my ancient CPR skills if a blessing would work as well, but I have serious doubts about the whole sneezing-stopping-the-heart thing.
The only reason for saying “bless you” that I could come up with in the end was this: MANNERS. My mother taught me to say “bless you” when someone sneezed, and so I do it. I don’t know why I do it except that Mom told me I should. That’s a good enough reason for me.
Why do we say “bless you” when someone sneezes? No one really knows, but you can read more about it at: http://www.snopes.com/language/phrases/blessyou.asp