Most of you know that I live in “God’s waiting room” which is also known as Southwest Florida. According to the last census, 24.9% of the population of the county where I live is over 65. Perhaps more than any other group of people that I have ever encountered, the older folks here seem very concerned about catching illnesses, particularly the flu. In many ways this is a completely rationale fear. Influenza is a serious illness, made even more so if one is older and has other health problems. So it isn’t surprising when people take steps to avoid coming into contact with it.
For those of you who are not familiar with a Catholic Mass, there is a point during the service when participants give each other a sign of peace. This can be done in a variety of ways. Typically it is done by shaking hands and saying the words “Peace be with you.” It is not uncommon for people who know each other well–spouses, family, close friends–to hug or kiss instead of shaking hands. However, there are always those folks who prefer to avoid contact, particularly during cold and flu season. This is perfectly acceptable. These people will usually clasp their hands together, and nod, saying the words or they will make the classic peace sign, holding up two fingers, palm out. All of these are beautiful ways in which to share the Peace of Christ with others.
Some of you may see where I am going with this. In some places (Ireland, England and Scotland, to name a few) if you reverse the peace sign, that is if the back of your hand is pointing out while holding up two fingers it is a very rude gesture. It is equivalent to an American holding up their middle finger. It is even ruder if move your arm or hand, motioning upwards. The video below is an excellent example of how this is done properly. Keep your eyes on the Baroness sitting to the speaker’s right.
Imagine my surprise when I turned around to see an elderly lady motioning in just such a manner–two fingers held up, back of her hand out, waving it up and down at everyone around her. Bless her.