Plea from the Sickroom

sick dayAt my eldest’s high school graduation (yes, I had one who went to public school for his last few years, but that’s another story) a big deal was made over several students who had never missed a day of school in their lives. All the way back to kindergarten. Never.

Now, I ask you. Is it humanly possible for normal kids to never be sick a day in their entire lives? Not even a cold? I don’t think so.

What those kids were rewarded for was sharing their germs.sick kid

Ah, what a gift.

Americans don’t like to take sick days. That’s a fact. People let them build up, saving them for that big illness down the road. Which means that when they’ve got a simple virus, or a cold, or “just” a sore throat or even a low-grade fever, they take great pride in getting themselves to work. It’s our American “we can do it; we’re tough; we can do anything” syndrome.

I sat in church Sunday and listened to people with these deep, goopy, phlegmatic coughs, and thought, “OK, I know there’s virtue in never missing church, but….isn’t one of the high points of the Gospel this thing about “loving your neighbor?”

What I want to gently remind these never-miss-a-day-of-work folks is that what they’re really doing is spreading the wealth. Of sickness, that is.

I have psoriatic arthritis, and like many of us with autoimmune disorders, I take some pretty heavy weekly meds which lower my immune system even more. There are others who are elderly and frail who are also susceptible to whatever floats by, not to mention cancer patients whose chemo knocks their immunity to near-zero.

What may take an otherwise healthy person a few days to get over, can drag on, with the immuno-compromised, for weeks, if not months. If not, in the case of cancer patients, kill them altogether.

Yes, I know germs are always out there. But–do we have to add to the mix? If I had a dollar for every person who’s told me, in an office, a theater lobby, a grocery store, “oh, I had a little fever this morning, but I’m fine now,” or, “I was throwing up all night, but I’m feeling a lot better now,” I could buy a newer laptop.

The main thing I dread about late fall, winter, and early spring isn’t so much the cold. It’s the fact that I have to avoid social gatherings and groups of most kinds because so many people who are actively sick don’t. I turn into a kind of hermit, which, despite floors piled with books and the internet, is, well, lonely and fairly depressing.

I wonder, is it so much to ask that people who are actively sick maybe TAKE that sick day? Stay home until they’re not contagious? I’m not asking for 21 days of quarantine here, just a day or two.

sick adult

Your boss may not thank you, but I will.

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