By Joe Rector

This world isn’t much like the one I grew up in. Oh, I know technology has made advancements that make our lives much easier. Folks now have much more time to pursue interests and hobbies. Those aren’t the things I’m talking about. What amazes me is the concern for germs.

Americans have become germaphobes. Whenever children touch any foreign objects, moms break out the hand sanitizer. We are bombarded with warnings that tell us to wash hands, avoid contacts, and take all sorts of medicines and vitamins. If it weren’t so ridiculous, it would be comical.

Flash back to the ‘50s and ‘60s. We kids played outside whenever we could. In fact, our parents ordered us outside and warned us not to come back in until we were called for supper. That was fine with us; we were left to our own devices. That meant kids became explorers and creators. We’d find a dead animal, and for chunks of time we poked at it with sticks in attempts to figure out what happened. A group of boys would search out snakes. Then they’d kill and skin them. The hides were attached to boards.

Even earlier in life, we played in puddles of water. Yep, nothing kept us as interested as splashing and then kneeling to make mud pies by the dozen. If a nose itched, a dirty little hand swiped across it; inadvertent passing hands deposited grime on lips, and soon a lick cleared the dirt. On some occasions, one child would dare another to sample a pie, and everyone knows that a “double-dog dare” isn’t something to ignore.

Playing outside resulted in kids getting dirty. Games of baseball and football soiled clothes and bodies. Scrapes to knees and elbows and other sharp points of the human body were caked with dirt bandages. We continued to play and enjoy our freedom outside. By the end of the day, many of us resembled Pig Pen from “Peanuts.”

These days, children seem to be sickly. They develop food allergies that prevent them from eating a slew of items. Pollen wreaks havoc on some as they suffer from adverse reactions. Worst of all, too many children are terrified to join in activities that might soil their clothes or hands. These young folks opt for cleaner conditions in their homes where they become experts at video game football or baseball. Never mind the fact that they rarely, if ever, have played an actual game outdoors.

Parents are to blame for the dilemma. They hover over children and run interference against anything that might put their offspring in the path of a germ. These adults have forgotten how their parents subscribed to the “5-second rule:” Food that hit the floor or ground was still consumable if it were retrieved within 5 seconds. We older folks remember picking up pieces of food that our children dropped, blowing away any dirt, and then returning them back to the little ones to eat.

The world is filled with many things that can cause sneezes, tummy aches, and runny noses. However, when children are exposed to the world without having to wear masks, long sleeves, and protective eyewear to play, something amazing happens. They develop an immunity to those things. Then life is much more fun as the children participate in life without the fears of contracting some disease.

Moms and dads of today need to back off. It’s time to stop being so worried about germs. Guess what? The world is filled with them, and they aren’t going anywhere. So, it’s time to send junior out and let him enjoy a little taste of dirt. He might do much better in his health if his parents ended the useless effort to prevent the child from being exposed to any possible health risk. Hey, remember, even breathing is dangerous to every person’s health; with every breath, we all take one step closer to the end. Give kids a break and let them experience and enjoy life and all of its little creatures, even if it includes dirt and grit and yucky stuff.