At the age of 5 or so, a woman shopping near us in the market sneezed and a fellow shopper said “gaableshoo.” I asked my mom what that word meant and she explained that the words, “God-Bless-You” are said because it was once believed that our hearts stopped beating for a brief moment when we sneezed. Apparently, we say it to bless the one who sneezed in case they died or maybe to prevent them from dying. I am not sure how accurate any of that is, but I embraced the practice nonetheless.

Years ago, when my young nephew sneezed, I responded with the customary “God bless you,” to which he replied, “I’d prefer someone hands me a tissue when I sneeze instead of just saying ‘God Bless you’.”

I recently learned that most other cultures do not say ‘God bless you’ following a sneeze. A Swedish woman I know told me that in her country they say something to the effect of “oopsie” when a person sneezes. I myself have noticed that many people in this country say “gaableshoo” in a rote and insincere fashion. Like my nephew, I too prefer that if an action is going to take place surrounding my sneezes, that it be more purposeful and perhaps even meaningful.

A few years ago I began to do something a little differently when someone around me sneezes. I would like to share with you this new custom which encourages an experience of positivity and fosters a genuine (even if only momentary) connection each time someone around you sneezes. If you are the type of person who typically says “God Bless You,” might I suggest you add just two or three more words to the phrase? Please consider adding “…with good health” to the end of that traditional statement. Or get creative and bless the sneezer “with peace and joy!” Maybe even go so far as to bless another with “prosperity and love.”

Cold and flu season is upon us; what a great opportunity to connect in a meaningful way with friends and strangers alike. The next time you are in close proximity to somebody sneezing, make it a purposeful and momentous occasion. Go ahead, give it a try.  I dare you!