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The oddest thing happened to me recently.  I was walking through the frozen foods aisle at WalMart, and a fellow shopper just ahead of me let out a big, loud sneeze.  I said "Bless you!" and he looked up; we made brief eye contact.  He got this sheepish look on his face like I had just accused him of shoplifting; our carts passed; and I didn't think anything of it.  A few minutes later, I was in the 20-or-less checkout aisle, and out of the blue, someone gave me a couple of pats on my left shoulder.  I looked to my left shoulder and saw "the sneezer" walking away.  He looked over his his shoulder and said "thank you--you made my day!"


This comes on the heels of something that happened this past Sunday.  We had a LOT of visitors at church this week, and a visiting couple sat next to me.  The lady sneezed LOUDLY during a prayer.  I reached over across the pew, patted her shoulder and said, quietly, "Bless you!"  After the service, she came up and gave me the BIGGEST hug, and her husband shook my hand--and they  both said that my "Bless you!" helped make their decision to join our church.


So--since when does simple civility make someone's day or cause them to join a church??  A simple "thanks!" would have been more than sufficient, and even that wouldn't have been a major deal.  I mean, I'm very happy that both events happened--but honestly I'm borderline troubled that these even made a ripple in the pond.  Both of these folks were surprised that I blessed them.  Since when was that out of the ordinary?  I was raised to say "Bless you!" when someone sneezes; apparently I'm not alone, as in Schedule Planning staff meetings, when someone sneezes, the chorus of "Bless You's!" rises up in unison like a liturgical response in a sanctuary.  I always thought it was a Texan/Southern thing, but since nearly everyone in my Department is from all over the country, now I think it's an American thing.


Saying "Bless you!" when someone sneezes implies many things, but it's really just using the opportunity of a respiratory spasm to show someone a little human compassion and some good wishes.  It's based on a historial (and false) belief born centuries ago that when someone sneezed, their heart stopped; blessing them made the re-start of their ticker more probable.  Unfortunately, in these days of soul-numbing anonymity, such niceties seem to have fallen off the map.  Why?  And why should we tolerate the gradual eradication of American nicety?  I just don't think we should go quetly into that dark--and lonely--night.


So here is my challenge.  Starting today, and for the next week--whenever you see/hear someone sneeze, give 'em a loud "Bless you!" and make eye contact with them.  Let them know that someone wishes them well.  Say it loudly--not obnoxiously, but say it loud enough so that they hear it, and hopefully anyone around will hear it as well.  We're going into allergy (and, somewhat more frighteningly, flu) season, so we should have ample oppportunity.  Let's see if we can pay good wishes forward!  And equally important to this little social experiment--if you  get any reaction (other than a polite smile!)--please post a comment here.  We'll see what a polite, and caring, army might be able to accomplish!


Let me hear from you, folks!!!!


And.......BLESS YOU!









Explorer C
Thanks Bill, you have Blessed me with this story.
Explorer C
I just came from a Women's Southwest Region Meeting where Southwest employee Paula Berg gave a presentation on Using Social Media as a Business Tool. Whether our company promotes this or not, I am thrilled to see an employee of Southwest promote the company she works for. Her presentation was delightful and very useful. I have a brother who has worked for Southwest for ever and even though he's at an age where he can retire, I don't think you can push him away from there. More companies need to create an environment of mutual respect, fun, and loyalty. In today's climate it seems that loyalty on the part of the employer to the employee and vice versus is almost lost in the workplace. THANKS Southwest.
Explorer C
Hello Mr. Owens, We are currently enrolled in a Business Communication course and it just so happens that we are doing a presentation on the Nutz about Southwest Blog. As a team we agree that a response from you would help us futher enhance our presentation. We were wondering if you have some time to answer a few questions we would like to incorporate into our presentation. Our next class is at 6 pm on 09-16-09, which is this Wednesday. We are very grateful for any input you can provide on the top of your blog. 1. In your opinion, what are the advantages of using blogging to communicate with your customers? 2. Do you think that this has been the most effective communication tool for Southwest to date to reach you consumer base? Why? 3. What do you enjoy most about your job as a blogger for Southwest? Sincerely, Team 3/BSA 314
Explorer C
THANK YOU FOR YOUR 'BLESS YOU' to many people think it some how would open them up to being rejected or there life some how would be changed????? we need more people concered for others THANK YOU THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU!!!! p.S. i was looking for a promo code for SOUTHWEST AIRLINES...... BUT so glad I found your blog. thank you.
Explorer C
I have an awesome little niece who is a few months away from her 2nd birthday. It doesn't matter if you cough, sneeze, or clear your throat within get an enthusiastic "BLESS YOU!!" from her. It's the coolest thing ever 🙂 If someone that age can do that, anyone can!!
Explorer A
Good article Bill. As you stated a simple thank you can go a long way as well. Session 2 2009 Camp Barnabas (video) Thank you for writing!
Adventurer C
How about good old fashioned manners? It amazes me how seldom you hear Excuse Me, Pardon Me, Thank You, I am sorry. We have become a nation of rage, let us all take a break from our cell phones, blackberry, i-pods and make a little eye contact and acknowledge each other in a civil way. Just like the Beatles song the phrase and in the end it is the love you make not the love you take. I think we need a National Holiday for Good Manners.
Explorer C
Hello Bill, I had the privilege of flying Southwest Airlines for the first time last week. I have to say that the personable demeanor and attitude of the staff (both in air and on ground) was refreshing. Your story reiterates the values that are being taught at Southwest. The small gestures possess the ability to have a lasting impact to those on the receiving end. I also have to comment on the Southwest Airlines blog. One of the vital aspects of an effective marketing program is consistency. You guys have proven to be successful in conveying a cohesive message, because you "practice what you preach." This blog is informative, yet personal. It gives travelers a brief insight as to what they can expect to receive from their Southwest Airlines flying experience. Your blog is an extension of your user friendly website. All of the tools are accessible and easy to manipulate. It enhances your company message, which from a consumer's perspective, appears to value relationship building. While on my first Southwest Airlines flight, I was "entertained" by the flight attendants. They were fun, but most importantly, they were honest. I felt that I was experiencing who they truly were. That's the image and feel of your website and blog. Marketing who you are as a company and a people allows you to stand out from the rest. Congratulations on a job well done! Bless You! V. L.
Explorer B
Thanks to everyone out there so far that has responded positively to this message! I thought for sure, the mention of bless you out there would have caused some sort of stir of somebody offended by whatever means that eveyone now a days gets offended by. It;s refreshing to see something finally positive in the blog!
Afternoon, all! Thanks for your comments! I hope I did strike a nerve. Imagine how much nicer this nation could be if everyone just practiced common courticy and niceness. And....why not?? And Team 3/BSA14....I am **so** sorry I didn't see your comment. I've been a little preoccupied this week, and I didn't get it until today. While I'd be happy to answer your questions--actually you may be better served if our Blog Queen, Paula Berg, or Blog Boy, Brian Lusk, answers them. PB/BL.....can you? Thanks! Bill