816 North

Susan Vollenweider - How to be a hero in the battle against germs

“That pastor is my hero,” Brian announced as he came home from church.

“Must have been some sermon,” I thought.

“You should have seen Dad,” Bekah came in from the garage behind him, “he was fist-pumping when Pastor told us that we didn’t have to shake hands, just verbally offer the peace.”


“I heard people coughing; I didn’t want to shake anyone’s hand. If they’re sick they should stay home.”

“Hypocrite much?” I asked. “You go to work when you’re sick but it’s not OK for other people to go out when they are?”

“I keep my germs to myself. I wipe off everything, every day. I don’t cough near anyone.”

“So it’s a trust issue, then?” I asked.

“Good way to put it, yes,” he admitted. “I don’t trust that they are going to keep it to themselves.”

Earlier that morning Noah had complained of not feeling well. He said his stomach felt “icky.” The image of him chucking in the pew kept him and me home. It turned out that Dad and I were just being played, but with the aggressive nature of the current strain of stomach virus making the rounds, we had to play it safe.

We had to, but we were also able to.

Our house has yet to incur the wrath of either that virus or influenza this year (knock wood/throw salt/spit three times on the ground). Contrary to what Brian thinks, I don’t think that this is because of anything special that we have done. I really think it’s partially dumb luck. We could all get sick tomorrow.

We all got a flu shot in the fall, but a lot of people who got flu shots did contract the flu.

We do what we can — exactly what we have always done, even in the years when we haven’t dodged it and all fought for whoopee buckets. We do the same things a lot of families do who have been sick this year.

A Facebook status as simple as, “Poor Billy, he has a fever and a really sore throat” will strike both practical and communal chords.

“Get him swabbed and try to score some Tamiflu!”

“Does his breath smell like strep?”

“Flu. We all had it — welcome to the club.”

No one is surprised a few days later Billy is still sick on the sofa, Janie in her room, and dear Hubby is hacking from his own bed.

And then Mom gets sick and Mom work never ends.

Brian and moms aren’t the only ones who will work through illness. Hourly employees, contract workers, the self-employed — lots of people feel it necessary to work when they are sick. Unless they physically cannot get out of bed, they suck it up, take whatever medicine they can get their hands on and go to work. If they don’t, their family loses income.

The CDC website lists the best ways to stop the spread of germs. Most are common sense and specific — cover your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze, wash your hands thoroughly — except this open-for-interpretation one: Stay home…after fever is gone except to seek medical care or for other necessities.

“Other necessities?”

Subjective much?

The pastor who Brian was applauding must have known that some people would take church to be a necessity. In an ideal world we all would be able to keep ourselves and our germs at home. But we don’t live in that world.

We live in a world where we all need to be heroes — think of others as we do what we have to as we are able.