Blog: A simple “bless you”

“The Mia Perspective” with Mia Karr


Mia Karr, Print Editor-in-Chief

My mother always reprimanded me when she sneezed and I failed to give the expected “bless you.” A lenient woman in many ways, she insisted on this one rule of courtesy. While it seemed silly at the time, I’m glad she trained me to make this response a reflex. In interactions with my peers, it becomes apparent saying “bless you” is falling out of practice. This simple act of kindness makes a positive connection with another human being, is a comforting gesture for a cold-ridden friend, and takes almost no effort.

The beauty of saying “bless you” is that it can be said to anyone in the vicinity who sneezes, not just someone you have had prior contact with. So many of our small interactions with strangers are negative- honking at a car that cuts us off, or scowling at a mother with an unruly child. Saying “bless you” is a way to extend a hand of courtesy to anyone at all. Just knowing someone is looking out for you, in the smallest of ways, is a comfort.

People who are sneezing are often those who need comfort. Loudly erupting into a sneeze in the middle of class and rushing to the tissue box while a deluge of snot drips down your face is not only uncomfortable, but embarrassing. Saying “bless you” makes a cold-ridden person feel less like they are a festering glob of disease and reminds them that sneezing is an experience we all share at one point or another.

Some may say “bless you” is archaic. True, the origin of the phrase is up for debate, and whether it was to ward off evil spirits or acknowledge a (false) belief that the heart stops when you sneeze, it is irrelevant now. However, the friendliness of “bless you” remains. It takes much less effort to utter the those two words than to complain about why they are unnecessary.

So maybe “bless you” is a small thing. But it’s an easy way to make someone’s day a tiny bit better at no cost to yourself.