Are you afraid to be exposed to germs?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far way, before the fear of coronavirus killed off friendly get-togethers, one of my besties came to New York City for a visit.

My hubby, Pablo, and I spent a couple of hours playing in Central Park with her three little boys ages three through seven. We swung on the swings, rolled around in the grass, jumped onto the pull-up bars, and had a lot of fun.

As we were getting ready to leave the park, her little guys wanted ice-cream.

We stopped at one of the many food vendors conveniently planted in the park, and she purchased ONE chocolate chip cookie ice-cream sandwich.

The three kids locked their eyes on the prize. Who was going to be the lucky kid to get the first bite?

Like a good mom, she wanted to split it evenly between the kids so there would be no bickering. She tried to break the ice-cream cookie sandwich into smaller parts, but it was frozen solid.

She struggled with it and then, completely frustrated, shoved the sweet treat toward the littlest guy, and said, “Here, just eat it! C’mon… let’s go.”

“Awwhhhh,” I said, “What about the other two little guys?”

“We’ll get something for them later,” she said.

My husband, with his manly man muscles, jumped in to save the day.

He said, “Here… let me try.”

He took the frozen disc from the littlest guy and attempted to break it in half. But he too struggled with the frozen ice-cream sandwich.

That was one tough cookie!

Pablo handed the unbreakable mini-glacier back to the littlest guy.

As that kid was about to sink his teeth into the long-awaited chocolate chip ice-cream cookie sandwich, my friend’s eyes grew wide with horror!

She panicked and grabbed it, “No, no, no, no, no, no… give me that thing!”

Without a second thought, she quickly tossed the ice-cream into the garbage can.

She shook her head side to side and said, “I just can’t…. I’m a germaphobe. I get crazy about stuff like that.”

I giggled, “Lord have mercy!”

She continued, “Pablo was pushing the kids on the swings and then his hands were on the pull-up bar and he was playing in the grass, too… “ She scrunched her face into a wrinkly ball and continued, “Who knows what kind of germs were on his hands from all of that. Ugh! I just can’t. All those germs make me CRAZY.”

We had a good giggle about her neuroses.

But, the truth is, it’s not uncommon.

Most people are deathly afraid of germs.

Especially, with the coronavirus craze that swept around the world. I’m sure you’ve seen people hand sanitizing themselves until their skin had cracks in it.

As a matter of fact, some folks won’t even dare glance at another human being. They are so afraid of catching something by merely making eye contact with another human, let alone touch them.

For a long time now, we are a society filled with toxic and/or sterilizing products to eradicate germs anywhere at any time: anti-bacterial soaps, anti-bacterial detergents, and hand sanitizers…

Unfortunately, our overly “clean” behavior actually sets us up for weaker immunity and more problems in the long run. Our fear of bacteria and germs may be one of the contributors to why allergies have sharply increased in the last few decades.[1]

I remember when I was young, I rolled around in the dirt and played with my friends in the park, using all of the available swings, monkey bars, and other fun stuff, without fear of catching anything.

And, then… the ice-cream man showed up. Yay!!

With our dirty little fingers, we held the sugar cone and the ice-cream would melt and drip all over our hands and face. Not only that, but we all shared those frozen treats – there were so many different flavors. Some kids had vanilla chocolate or strawberry, and other kids had multicolored rocket pops and watermelon Italian ices (my favorite!).

Everyone got a taste or a lick from someone else’s sweet treat.

It was a literal germ-fest!

By the time I got home from a long day playing in the park, I looked like Pigpen from the Charlie Brown comic strip.

If I was extra dirty and covered in mud, mom would tell me to take a shower. If I was only moderately dirty she would tell me to wash my hands and face with soap and water.

As it turns out, plain old soap and water are far more effective at preventing infections than antibacterials, and it’s much safer, too.[2]

Being clean is one thing, being ultra sanitized with anti-bacterial agents is another thing altogether.

We need germs and bacteria and couldn’t possibly live without them. Those little microscopic beings strengthen our immunity.

I think it’s a wise idea to focus on living life and playing with each other again without the fear of being exposed to germs.

So… play in the dirt, and split an ice-cream sandwich with someone, or a bunch of someones for gosh sakes. It’s good for your immunity and it’s good for your connection to community as well.