I thought I was successfully and carefully avoiding the flu, until last Wednesday. I’m borderline OCD when it comes to washing my hands and staying germ-free. But, I got in my car after teaching Bible study and felt tired. I’m usually a little tired after teaching, so I didn’t think too much about that. Later that afternoon, my head hurt. I thought, Mountain Cedar. (I’m really allergic to Mountain Cedar.)
I woke up Thursday morning with almost no voice. I considered the idea of hot tea and throat lozenges to enable me to teach my Thursday study. But, when I stood up I thought, Oh no . . . I’m sick. I went to the doctor Thursday afternoon, and she returned to my room saying, “You have Type-B influenza.” I left the office wearing the face mask I had received at the check-in desk. The people on the elevator shrank into the corner like I was the carrier of some dreaded disease. I was.
It has been fifteen years since I’ve had the flu! I don’t get sick. I’ve often said, “I have an immune system like a brick wall!” But, even brick walls get knocked down by oncoming trucks—and this flu was one of those. It only takes a moment to catch this flu. One handshake, one sneeze, or just one quick breath from a contagious person and the virus goes to work. What a difference a moment can make!
By the time you read these words, I will be back on my feet and no longer contagious. Tamiflu has been my friend, and I’m well on the road to wellness. Thankfully, I’m the only member of the family to get sick.
I thought about skipping my blog post this week and blaming the flu. It is kind of hard to think about much else right now. But I had a thought, which caused me to start typing. It was prompted by the looks I saw on people’s faces while I was wearing that mask. (I wish I had taken a selfie for this post!)
As I sat in the waiting room, people crossed the room to sit as far away as possible. The people on the elevator dashed out the minute the doors opened, anxious to escape the shared space with the masked woman. No one wanted to be near me, and I didn’t blame them. I was contagious, and they didn’t want to catch what I had.
I wanted to rip the mask off my face so they wouldn’t be uncomfortable and I wouldn’t have to feel embarrassed. But, to remove my mask would have been the wrong thing for everyone, so I kept it on. However, one woman looked at me and offered a sympathetic smile. She didn’t sit next to me, but she didn’t treat me like my “disease” either. I was surprised at how grateful I felt for her. I hope she knew I was smiling back behind my mask.
I think that is what Jesus would have done. I wonder if the woman at the well felt similar feelings when Jesus took the time to speak to her. I imagine that is how Zacchaeus, a hated tax collector, felt when Jesus called him out of that tree. The lepers of Jesus’ day had to shout “Unclean!” so no one would touch them. Jesus took their hands and healed them. Everyone we know has a disease of some kind, but if we want to live like Jesus, we need to look past the mask and see the person.
I was reminded how important the small moments of life can be for both the good and bad. That woman will probably never know she made my afternoon a little bit easier. I will return to the doctor’s office in a couple of weeks for my regular appointment. I will almost surely see someone wearing a mask like I had. I will do my best to catch their eye and smile. I hope it will help. In fact, if Jesus directs my eyes, I’m sure it will. Apparently, smiles are contagious too. I’m looking forward to sharing what I received from someone else.
Jesus is still walking through this world, hoping to touch others. He just uses people like us to accomplish his work. Whose mask will you look past today—and see the person instead? Let’s make Christian kindness as contagious as this flu. It will probably just take a moment to pass that along to someone else.