the Unreal Little Pink Box of Common Cold

One of the blogs I regularly read recently had a post on “Spreading the Germs of Joy” which compared the Old Testament handling of leprosy in Leviticus with how Jesus handled it in the New Testament. In Leviticus, if you get leprosy you’re pretty much done for (unclean! unclean!), but if you’re lucky enough to be the leper who meets Jesus, you get healed. Awesome.

On one hand I was raised in Christian Science and told that contagion isn’t real, on the other, I’ve been on the unintended receiving end of my share of “unreal” contagious maladies.


see the little pink box containing the common cold?

One of my lasting memories from Sunday School is the morning we had Mr. Peterson for our temporary teacher (our primary teacher had a falling out with the Board and so we had a string of fillers). Mr. Peterson was a middle school teacher and did not treat the high school/college class with the respect we felt we deserved, he talked down to us, and on that particular Sunday he decided to lecture us on the unreality of the common cold. To prove his point we “created” the common cold in a little pink box, we sat around the table looking intently at the nothingness in the entirely nonexistent little pink box the center of it.

The next week we had a new teacher, Mr. Peterson was out with a cold.

I’m not sure what lesson Mr. Peterson had in mind when he set out to teach us about the unreality of the common cold, but I walked away  being reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 4:12 You shall not tempt the Lord your God. While the context is different, Jesus has been wandering in the desert for days and a tempter is reminding him that he can turn stones into bread, or jump off a cliff – the angels will catch him, the underlying take away is the same, don’t intentionally do something stupid.

Sorry Mr. Peterson, “creating” the common cold in a little pink box is pretty stupid.

So where is the balance? I don’t want to live my life in fear of the next contagious thing that might be going around, but at the same time I don’t want to be up all night with children coughing and congested.

I’d like to think I’ve worked out a reasonable system: I generally avoid reading terrifying headlines and I don’t watch omg-plague/illness/contagion movies (or the nightly news). I don’t tell my children if you do such-and-such “you’ll get sick” or “catch a cold.”

When my children aren’t feeling well, I do my best to keep activities to a minimum, keep them hydrated, rested, and at home. This is not out of fear of contagion, but because if you take a slightly snotty toddler to a grocery store you get really nasty looks (and remarks) from strangers. They also remain home from their regularly scheduled activities, no one wants an unhappy, congested child sitting in a corner wailing, or traipsing about leaving traces of snot about. We cancel play dates for the same reason.

While I don’t declare them to be unclean the way the Old Testament Priesthood does, I do give their bedding an extra wash. I find fresh linens and blankets are cozy and comforting when you’re not feeling well. I also don’t go all velveteen rabbit on their toys -some do occasionally get tossed in the wash, it is usually because of peanut butter.

Most of our play dates (year round actually) are held at the local park (weather not permitting we add more layers of clothing, or have it at one of our houses and hope they can go outside). We avoid the local indoor kinder gym (it is like Lord of the Flies for the toddler set), and every time we attend we seem to pick up the newest round of snot and sniffles.

Contagion may not be real to Christian Science, but the tempter also reassured Jesus that the angels would catch him (Luke 4:10-11). So remember, don’t tempt stupid, and be considerate of others who might not feel the same way about contagion as you do.


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