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October 15, 2004
I hear that there's a nasal spray vaccine, too, I tell the nurse. She says the doctor will write us a prescription for that, since both of us are high risk. Then I call the pharmacy. They don't have either the shot or the spray anyway.

Maybe we'll be able to find some flu vaccine. Maybe we won't. Maybe a group of Canadian vaccines that already exists will be licensed here in time for flu season. Maybe they won't.

Well, washing your hands frequently is the main thing. Flu spreads mostly from hand to hand, my doctor says when I ask him about what to do if we can't get the vaccine. Actually, the antibacterial gel you buy in the drugstore is really better than handwashing, because most people don't wash their hands for thirty seconds. That's true: when I wash my hands it takes all of three seconds. The gel distributes well over your skin and it stays on. Get the gel and carry it with you. Use it a lot -- always after shaking hands with someone.

I really don't touch things in public places, Anna tells me on the phone. I don't touch the handrails. I turn on the water faucet in the girls' room with a paper towel. She's waiting to see if her school will have the shot, as they said they would: she's already caught cold from her kids once this fall, and school's only been in session for six weeks.

Uh-oh. Shaking hands is an occupational hazard for the clergy. We stand at the door of the church and shake hands with everyone who leaves the service. What to do? Little ceremonial bows, instead? A friendly hand on the shoulder, touching only cloth? A wholesale return to gloves and hats in church, maybe, on the part of women? Or gloves on all of us, maybe: the ushers can give you your rubber gloves with your bulletin.

I'll keep looking for the vaccine. I'll buy the gel and see if I can persuade Q to use it -- such things are against his nature and he thinks they're silly, but haranguing him sometimes works. And we will rest enough and drink enough water and take our vitamins and stay away from others if we become ill.

And we will pray every day. A flu prayer.

O God, giver of life and health, maker of the miracle that
is the human body, we thank you for the power to heal
with which you have endowed it: myriad cells, each
knowing just what to do to remain whole and well. Bless
each cell of each being you have so wonderfully made,
those we love and those we do not know, and increase
in each the health you have planted there from the beginning.
Help our minds to match our cells in wisdom, that we may
govern our behavior wisely. Deliver us from the deadly
bravado of refusing to admit that we are ill when illness
comes, choosing instead to walk among our fellow citizens
and infect them, and calling it strength. O Great Physician, you
show forth wisdom, strength and humility in equal measure: give
these things to us this flu season, so that we may be part of the
saving of lives to your glory. AMEN.
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