I have a question for all of you. When someone sneezes, do you say "Bless You?"
I don't know when it started for me, but I feel a strange conviction not to say it. Years ago, I came across some information somewhere about the origins of this phrase. I don't remember everything I heard back then so I did a little wiki search and found that it's origins could date back as far as the 6th century. There are several theories, from the belief that a sneeze was the onset of the bubonic plague to the belief that when you sneeze, it's your body's effort to force out an evil spirit. Saying "God bless you" was basically an attempt to halt a disease or sheild someone against those evil spirits being expelled. Doesn't that sound silly? I love to bless people, but not in ways that are socially obligatory. I have this thing about doing things that have always been done for reasons that no one seems to be able to pinpoint.
If sneezing really were the first signal that you had the bubonic plague, wouldn't it be more helpful to just pray for that person? There are people out there, you know who you are, who will say "Bless You" to anyone, anywhere. My mom will say it from the other side of the house if she hears anything that even remotely sounded like a sneeze. The other day, I was in a store and a man who was shopping right next to me sneezed. I was the only one around him and I felt this incredible pressure to bless him. I felt like he was thinking, "What kind of an insensitive jerk are you? Didn't you just hear me sneeze? Now bless me, dangit!"
If you say it, you are somehow equated with being a kind and thoughtful person. If you don't, you are self-absorbed and you secretly wish that all sneezers would just die, already. I've seen people look up in a panic and say it really fast in an attempt to be the first one to say it. Thereby making that person the nicest in the room, I guess. It's kind of like that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer refuses to "wear the ribbon." Everyone acts annoyed with him that he won't do it until the end when everyone is chasing him down the street with red ribbons.
One day in church, Erica was sitting next to me and she sneezed. I just sat there. She looked over at me and gave me a look, you know the one, and said, "I just sneezed. Aren't you going to bless me?" I said, "Oh yeah, I don't do that." I got another look and then, "Well what do you say when your kids sneeze?" I said, "Goodness!" She just rolled her eyes.
So.....if you happen to be around me and you sneeze, I might say "Goodness!" or I might say, "Good luck with that." or I might just smile. But you probably will not hear "Bless you."