I'm not usually a germaphobe

By Published On: November 6th, 2014

Sometimes I wonder how people stay alive at all. It […]

FOT20FDSometimes I wonder how people stay alive at all. It seems like every other headline is a report about Ebola or a Pertussis outbreak or the next big antibiotic-resistant superbug or this year’s deadly flu strains or the zombie apocalypse—especially the zombie apocalypse.
That’s why I typically don’t pay any attention to the reports and the fear-mongering media hype about all the supposed risks out there. You have to be a CDC professional to be able to separate fact from fiction. Aint no body got time for that.
For many years, our family has been content observing the basics of disease prevention. We wash our hands … sometimes. We cover coughs and sneezes. We stay home on the rare occasions we get sick. We eat well and get our exercise. We’ve stayed very healthy and remained calm and unconcerned as report after report of the next deadly outbreak cycles through our Facebook feed. Until now.
For some unknown reason, I actually clicked on a headline about a recent outbreak of enterovirus D68. I read of how many hundreds of people were being hospitalized and how it posed particularly high risk to children under 5. The map showed confirmed cases in my state. My pulse quickened. Sweat formed on my forehead. I got scared. I had in mind to quarantine our family so that nasty enterovirus couldn’t find us.
Then my wife started reading up on this year’s flu, and she got scared. She made appointments for all our kids to get a flu vaccine from our pediatrician. Normally, I would have fought her tooth and nail on that, but now I was volunteering to drive the kids to the pediatrician. What had happened? How did we go from carefree to panic-stricken overnight? It was the presence of a newborn in the house. I am confident that I wouldn’t have thought twice about it if I would have read those headlines a year ago when we had no newborn. The presence in our home of a human so small and vulnerable changed my perception of risk and threats.
A wise friend of mine once said that there are two basic motives for anything that people do: Love or fear. I have found this to be true in many things in life. When I am motivated by love, I think of myself less and look for ways to bless others. When fear takes over, I withdraw from others, and I think primarily about self-preservation. To be fair, fear has kept people alive in many situations, for there are times when caution is the wisest course of action. But I don’t think fear is what my family needed in this case. They needed me to love them by taking wise and reasonable steps to protect them.
Now that my brief struggle with germaphobia has passed, we have ended our quarantine, and a sense of peace and calm has returned to our home. We are all still physically healthy and certainly more emotionally healthy than we were during our short-lived season of fear. My wife and I are more conscious than ever of relating to our children and making decisions for our family based on love rather than fear.