I was waiting for the light to change at the corner of 34th and Market today, when the guy standing next to me sneezed loudly. I thought about it for half a beat, and decided to go for it. I said, “Bless you” to a total stranger. His thank you carried a decidedly shocked tone. The woman on the other side of him was also a little surprised that I had acknowledged his sneeze.
I don’t like that he was surprised that someone would offer this small kindness and I don’t like that I hesitated to offer it. I feel like in the wake of Katrina, when we’re all hungry to help, maybe the best way to help is to redirect some of that energy towards being kind, show some little bits of love, to the strangers all around us.
Just a thought.
Now if people would listen! Maybe I’m too positive, but I do think little things like this spread.
Like when you make someone smile, they make someone else smile…
sorry it happened that way for you. some random woman sneezed as she walked past me this morning, I instinctively shouted Bless You! and she shouted louder (since we were still walking away from each other at a good clip) Thanks! in a friendly tone.
i have a sneaking suspicion your experience was laden with “we’re at work”. i was near my apartment and i’m sure she was as well. it could be that when we’re in a more comfortable/close-to-home/safer environment we have less defenses put up.
I guess it’s habit for me or maybe it’s just that I grew up in the south and we’re more courteous than northerners, but I always say bless you to someone when they sneeze.
As corny as it sounds, those random acts of kindness really do make this world a bit more of a civil place.
I’m a big believer in acts of kindness for no other reason than the joy and satisfaction that is found for both the receiver and giver. I’ve been dismissed for being idealistic in the past, but I don’t mind. I’m going to keep saying bless you, offering directions to strangers and helping the little old ladies from my apartment building carry their books home from the library.
…and just because of this post, now I am saying ‘bless you’ to strangers loud and clear and smiling while doing so.
Awesome… I have awlays tried (even as a northerner by birth) to say SOMETHING. Glad to hear it’s pretty popular around here!
To offer an alternative (read: I think weird) take on it, I once had someone try to explain why it might surprise/annoy people. It was suggested that it represents a small personal invasion. Yup. You heard right. People most often can’t help sneezing. It’s kinda out of our control. But that doesn’t mean that they want people to acknowledge them/their sneeze/their existences(sad way to be, but…). Of course, some otherwise reasonable people just don’t like the “religious baggage” of the “bless you”. And finally, people could just be “work-like” uptight like aasmodeus said.
Me? I just look at it as a bit of social lubricant. It’s a way to say “sorry if you’re feeling under the weather”, “It’s ok wih me that you had an involuntarily outburt… I don’t mind”, and “Hey bub! How you doin?” all at once. I think we get caught up in our own little cocoons way too much already.
This little post just reaffirms my pride in being Marisa’s paternal gene donor. She’s the daughter I always wanted.