To Bless or Not to Bless

The other day when I was at work, I heard what sounded like a cough from a coworker and no one said anything. We heard it and we continued working.  Then shortly after that, I heard what sounded like a sneeze and myself and several other ladies in the office responded God Bless You.  It struck me at that time that there is a difference in the 2 sounds that elicit either no response or a response.   The difference is something that we learn from birth the same as when we learn how to recognize different expressions on our mothers faces and which people are happy and which are sad, simply by a look. Now, everyone has a distinct facial pattern that distinguishes them from another, they have their own walk and their one voice quality.  All sneezes and all coughs are equally as different however the uniqueness in their difference is that those who hear the sounds do not have to see the person to know the difference. We hear the difference and we recognize the difference.  Sneezes come out sounding like a rubber duckie that you squeeze “squeaky”,  like a person sipping a cup of coffee to make sure it is not too hot before it is swallowed “schuush”, like a chuchuchu train sound with just the “chuuu” or like the sound one makes when you kinda’ thought you were gonna be squeaky and you just “squeaked”.  These universal different yet equal sounds elicit several different universally accepted responses and they are “God Bless You” or in German it is ‘Gesundheit’, which means ‘health’  or ‘Oh my’ or ‘Are you ok?’ The sneezee then has the ability to totally ignore these responses and this no-response- response is acceptable universally, the sneezee can thank you and that  alone is acceptable, the sneezee can add an explanation for the sneeze which can  range from ‘my allergies are killing me’, to ‘I ‘m catching a cold’, to ‘I feel a chill in the office’, to ‘I don’t know where that came from’ – all acceptable and accepted universally. Oh and I might add that sneezes can come in two’s or three’s. Now what happens here is amazing.  After the first sneeze elicits a response and if there is an immediate second sneeze there may or may not be a response other than ‘oh my goodness’ and if there is a third sneeze, for some reason this elicits an even bigger response for those in its ear range.  It elicits either a giggle or some proclamation about ‘the third time is a charm’.  Universal  office laughter is the response and the office relaxes for a few minutes and then gets quiet and we go back to work.   

Now a cough on the other hand elicits no response of concern.  It usually causes the office to be irritated. A cough can sound like  a big Rottweilers’ bark or it can sound like kachooo.  A cough is impersonal and a cough stands alone.  No one cares about the cough unless it is continuous and becomes disruptive and then someone may ask, do you need  some water.’  However; the cougher pretty much has to just about gag before that happens.  A cough is an unwelcome intrusion and for some reason it gets relegated to the range of being rude even if the person really is sick.  We don’t seem to collectively care about coughs. There are no God Bless You’s/Gesundheit’s in English or in German. There is the raspy I have already smoke 10 cigarettes this morning sound, there is the I am sick I need to go home sound, the I have some kind of frog in my throat cough, the cough that when heard staff can hear the germs spreading all over the office, the loud cough, the quiet cough and the annoying cough.  According to coughing is your body’s way of removing foreign substances and mucus from your lungs and upper airway passages whereas sneezes protect your body by clearing the nose of bacteria and viruses, Kao explains.

So the basis for the difference in response to both of these reactions  be that one response is seen as an indicator of  ill-health and the other is seen as one of healing.  Our intuitive center recognizes the difference in the hearing.  We bless one and we don’t the other. To me the fact that all of us can recognize the difference is amazing.

The truth of the matter according to is that in the blessing, Wood explains,  the Greek word for sneeze is “pneuma,” which means “soul or spirit.” “A post-sneeze blessing stems from the ancient belief that sneezing is a near-death experience, and that a blessing will prevent your soul or sneeze from esc aping your body and will deter the devil from entering in,” Wood says.  A cough, on the other hand, means you are sick and should be banished to your home or at least to the conference room for a break to cough your little heart out so the office can work.  Blech!!

The ability that our ears have to distinguish sounds truly is amazing.  Wouldn’t it be great we practiced a little more listening and less talking.  If we did so, we could really hear what someone was truly saying as they spoke. We would be fully present in the dynamic of the conversation and understand the differences in tone signals a difference in direction.

Yolande Barial
Your Words Project: Speaking on Purpose

Seeks to Enrich the Lives of Women through Spoken and Written Word.

“Through her inspirational writings and spiritual poetry, Yolande Barial empowers women of all ages to be on purpose.”


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