#718 When you sneeze and a stranger says bless you

catch those free blessingsWarm Sunday dinners with family, late nights drinking with friends, studying with a group in your basement.

All of these are high odds scenes for scoring a blessing after you sneeze. Chances are good that if you explode in a loud bang of spit and phlegm at the dinner table, at least one of your aunts will say “Bless you” and there’s a good shot everyone will chime in. Same when you’re grabbing wings or cramming for biology.

But when you’re on your own it’s a whole different story.

Tapping on a laptop at the coffee shop, washing your hands in the restaurant bathroom, double-stepping up the escalator on your way to work.

These are low odds scenes for netting a blessing. The people around you don’t know you and maybe don’t notice you. But when you sneeze and there’s just silence it’s a bit awkward. I always feel a little lonely in those situations. “Didn’t anyone just hear me sneeze?” I want to ask. But instead I just finish washing my hands and wonder if my released spirit is now floating around the urinals.

This is why there’s something cool about a stranger saying bless you. It’s even better when you say nothing before the free blessing and they say nothing afterwards. Like a friendly smile on passing escalator or an empathetic laugh behind you in line, it’s just a momentary little politeness blip.


deserves a blessing anywayIllustrations from: here

44 thoughts on “#718 When you sneeze and a stranger says bless you

    1. ok so thats how you spell it :) I always say that and people around me are like “What???” and im just like sigh, “Its german for bless you” lol people these days…

  1. I actually like it when I don’t get a bless you. I don’t want the attention drawn to me that a sneeze gets, and when I sneeze and get away without a bless you… I feel like I got away with it! And I feel pretty cool.

  2. Did anybody see Dogma??? Yeah, remember that part where Matt Damon goes on the killing spree in the Moobys headquarters and he has 1 soul that is spared because she is true….but she didn’t say “God Bless You” when he sneezed…..yeah….that’s why I always say it….I’m traumatized!!

  3. There is a tiny canyon between the polite words we speak to one another as strangers, and the ones people offer in return. I travel a lot, and say these routine words to a lot of strangers. It always strikes me as inexplicable when someone offers them in return. Why is that?

  4. i’m not religious, so i’m uncomfortable saying “god bless you” or even “bless you” since it’s just a corruption of the former with essentially the same implication. gesundheit seems just too strange and not acceptable for me to say. so i’m left looking like a jerk because i don’t say anything half the time. sometimes i conform and say bless you anyway.

    1. agreed on all counts…except i dont feel like a jerk, cause im not the one expecting a STRANGER to feel the need to “bless me” for sneezing :P

  5. Even awesome-er, when you’re in a car at a red light or what have you, and you sneeze and someone in another car says bless you.

  6. WHAT ever happened to God??……..It’s, ‘God bless you!’……..nothing less!!

    I don’t appreciate people taking God out of everything!!

    Jesus Saves!!!

          1. Don’t worry. You beliefs are yours, others have their own. I don’t always say God before I say bless you, and I consider myself pretty religious.


  7. One of my favorite moments in life was when I sneezed walking down a street in Munich, Germany and received a “Gesundheit!” from a passing stranger! That seemed like the ultimate sneeze situation!

  8. Love this story: we have a big backyard, and it borders a fairly main road. Anyways, a biker was biking by and sneezed. My sister yells ‘Bless you!!’ at the top of her lungs, and the biker yells back ‘thank you!’ real loud as he goes by :D

  9. Yeah.. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like this at all. I think BigFatTon put it pretty good.

    It’s not that I mind the phrase.. it’s just that I don’t think people should draw attention to peoples unnecessary bodily functions. It’s sort of like when you get punched just because a Volkswagon Beetle drove by. It’s not that it hurts, it’s that it’s stupid.

  10. True story… a few years ago I was driving with my windows down, and the dude in the car next to me had his down too. We were stopped at a light and he sneezed. I said bless you to him out of habit. To a person in another car. AWESOME.

  11. As I was rounding the corner in Boston in my friends car a woman waiting for the crosswalk sneezed. I yelled bless you and she kept laughing until she was out of sight. I feel like I made her day :D

  12. Where I live it’s VERY uncommon for strangers to say “bless you” when they hear you sneeze, I don’t think that’s ever happened to me! However when I was visiting the States a couple of years back and I was riding the subway in NY and sneezed, probably three strangers said “Bless you!”. I still remember that, it felt great! :) I wish people did that here more often..

  13. This is my worst habit, I have done it my entire life. I once got chucked out of an exam for saying it :)

    Should have just referred them to your website!

    1. At first I was surprised that you got chucked out of an exam for saying “Bless you”, but then I realized that I didn’t have enough enformation to be judgemental (do we ever?). What if the exam was on Contemporary Politeness Issues, and question 18 was “What do many people say when someone sneezes?” Then it would be appropriate for you to be removed from the exam.

      Just saying…

  14. It’s not the getting a Bless You… It’s the giving. Usually the sneezer is surprised, pleased and you get a thanks and a smile back!

  15. One cold winter morning when I was still in school, some classmates and I were camping out in front of the athletic building to get dibs on the “good” P.E. classes that would determine whether we would be spending the spring playing softball outside (YEAH), or weight training or aerobic running (BOO).

    This is what you would call a high-odds scene for a blessing.

    However, when one of my classmates sneezed, his buddy defied the odds by responding, “Die, you bastard” much to our collective delight. A post-sneeze curse. Brilliant!

  16. I did this before in an extra quiet library (more so than normal) and i was uber embarrassed, i was convinced the whole building heard it. Suspicions where confirmed when i heard someone go “bless you” I wanted to die.

  17. I always choose a random, polytheistic god to bless them.
    “Thor bless you” and “Poseidon bless you” are my favorites.

  18. I think it’s kind of weird when a random stranger says bless you to you, I personally wouldn’t say bless you to a stranger ever.

  19. so to know bless you also means “I Love you”…after nearly 20 years of saying bless you to everyone but you, they finally do say it to you…what’s one supposed to do…forgive, believe it’s finally true…seriously now, what would you do!

  20. One time my Mom and me were walking around, and went under some scaffolding when my mom sneezed and a voice above said “bless you” we both jumped and looked up like “what??” and we all started laughing. There’s something great about sharing a laugh with a complete stranger. :)

  21. Wow…nice!
    But what I liked best was your idea of positive things in daily life…some like holding the elevator 4 sumbody sound funny but its so very true. Things like that enhance life. When we do these to others they make life thrilling…
    I liked your idea…
    But pls orient this site Godwards to Jesus.
    Talk only good things man…i found many of the other posts real cool.
    God bless u and all who read this site….
    God loves you.

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