Recently, I visited a friend of mine who has the most precocious seven-year-old daughter. We were in his kitchen talking about the news of the day, when she interrupted us at the mention of the word virus. Since the coronavirus, or Covid-19, is all everyone is talking about these days, I wasn’t surprised she was interested.
She started to tell me how she was upset with this virus. It was causing her “undue hardship” (her words not mine).
So, I took the bait.
“What kind of hardship is it causing you?” I asked.
“Well,” she said, “I have to wash my hands many more times a day and for longer than I usually would.”
“Ah, I see,” I said, “and that’s causing you a lot of pain?”
“No, it’s just annoying,” she said.
“How so?” I asked.
“Have you ever had to wash your hands that much?” she grumbled.
I said, “Yes, I used to work in a restaurant while in college; we had to wash our hands quite often.”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s not the same,” she insisted.
An idea popped into my head. “What if I could show you why it’s important to wash your hands?”
She looked at me with skepticism and said, “Maybe.”
I peered over at my friend, and I got the “by all means, if you can get through to her, go right ahead” look.
I proceeded and asked, “Do you, by chance, have art clothes you can get dirty.”
She perked up at the thought of an art project and said, “Absolutely, I’ll be right back.”
She returned a few minutes later in a long smock that I assume could only have been my friend’s old button-down work shirt.
Jackson Pollock would have been impressed with the amount of paint and crayon that covered the shirt. She was very proud of it, as would I have been if it were mine. She strode up to me and announced, “I’m ready to proceed.”
Since we were in the kitchen, it only took me a moment to find the item I was after in the cabinets. I asked her to hold her right hand out, and she did so without hesitation. I proceeded to pour a large amount of honey onto her hand. She screeched a bit and looked at the golden liquid as it covered her small hand.
I asked, “How does that feel?”
She made a fist and felt the honey squish into her fingers. She pried them back apart, and she laughed and said it was sticky.
I continued, “Now the fun part: let’s say you don’t wash your hands after getting honey on them, and you, for instance, shake someone else’s hand.”
I presented my hand for her to shake, and seeing the chance to make someone else sticky, she gladly clasped my hand and transferred quite a bit of honey onto it.
She was also laughing quite a bit now since the stickiness made it hard for our hands to pry apart. But we managed.
I said, “What happens if you touch your nose or your mouth with that hand?”
She demonstrated and did so, leaving globules of honey on her nose and mouth.
“And what happens if you wipe your hand on your shirt?” I asked.
She again showed the motion to me, wiping her hands on her shirt. My friend was also laughing at this point, more so since his wife was away and wouldn’t see the mess we were making.
“And what happens if you go over to the fridge and get a glass of milk?” I inquired.
“I’m not too fond of milk,” she said.
“Well, how about water?” I replied
She moved to the refrigerator and opened it to get out the water jug, placed it on the counter, and went to get a glass. At this point, our demonstration had served its purpose, and there was no need to coat anything else with honey. I stopped her from getting the glass, and my friend boosted her up to a seat at the island.
“Now,” I said, “do you know what that honey on your hand represents?”
She quipped, “Wasted food?”
“Yes, I’ll give you that, but what if that honey was a virus that you had picked up?” I asked.
She stared up at me, and her eyes got a little wider. I assured her the honey was just honey and continued with my questions.
“What if the honey had been a virus? What would you have infected?”
She looked around at all the places she had touched in the kitchen.
She listed them off. “My hand, the handle on the fridge, the water jug, the counter, and my mouth and nose.”
“Anything else?” I asked.
She shook her head, so I held up the sticky mess that was my hand.
She chuckled and said, “Oh yeah, your hand.”
Now I asked her, “Where have I touched?”
She looked and thought really hard and said nothing.
“I knew I needed to wash my hand after touching another person, so I held off touching anything till I washed them,” I said. “While you spread the virus to all those places you listed, I only have it on my hand.”
I walked over to the sink, and she jumped down to join me on her sink stool. Together, we washed our hands to get the honey off. After several minutes of scrubbing with soap, both our hands were honey-free.
“Did you notice how long it took to get that honey off?” I said.
She said, “Yes, I didn’t think it was ever going to come clean.”
“So, do you think you have a better understanding of why it’s important to wash our hands more often and for longer?” I asked.
“Definitely.” She added, “That was fun and educational.”
Now it was my turn to laugh; she’s such a sweet little girl.
“Great, we had better get some towels and clean up the rest of the kitchen before your mom gets home. Otherwise, I might not get invited back.” She assured me I was always welcome and that next time, maybe we could make a mess with ketchup.