When I was in Mrs. Slaughter’s first grade class, I had mumps. I didn’t know I had mumps, I just knew I didn’t feel so well and I had a lump on one side of my neck. Mama diagnosed the lump as mumps. I don’t remember which side was first, but I only had it in one side. The next Monday morning, when Mama came in to wake me up for school, I said, “I have the mumps in the other side.” She said, “Get up from there and get ready for school.” Then she felt the other side of my neck and sentenced me to another week of solitary confinement. Those two weeks were the longest I ever missed during any school year. I pretended to have mumps at least a dozen more times after that. Since a reoccurrence of mumps is highly unusual, Dr. Mama did not fall for it. Neither did Jean after we married and I was in college and seminary!

Students have looked for ways to skip school, legally and with Mama’s blessing, as long as we’ve had schools. Every student gets sick from time to time, and we know many have faked it. I never won an academy award for any of my performances, but I felt like I should have at least been nominated a few times. Mama never seemed to appreciate my talent. I learned not to tell her that I might not make it through the day, and then make a miraculous recovery as soon as the big yellow bus passed out of sight. I received an education about pretending to be sick. Since we lived only a half mile from my school, Mama “allowed” me to get some extra exercise when I missed the bus. The good news is it was only uphill one way, rarely snowed, and I didn’t take my lunch in a syrup can.

I seem to remember telling Mama I thought I needed to stay home because I feared I might catch something at school. I believe she said I was going to catch something at home if I didn’t get up and get ready to go to school. I can’t remember a time when schools were ever closed for weeks due to sickness and certainly not due to the possibility of getting sick. We used to get out for a couple of weeks each fall for cotton picking. The bad part about that vacation was that I actually had to pick cotton for a couple of those breaks...and my family didn’t even grow cotton!

We are now in uncharted waters. Many of us had never heard of coronavirus until a few weeks ago, but now we aren’t sure where it may take us. Schools have closed, as well as some churches and businesses, and even nations. This is far more serious than missing a few weeks of school. At the time of my writing, worldwide, over six-thousand have died, including over sixty in our own country. Here in Opelika, we have our first confirmed case at the time of my writing. While we may have questions, we must take serious measures to prevent further spreading, or to flatten the curve, as they say. Some have made accusations of over-reacting, but it is better to be safe than sorry. If you are well, enjoy the vacation. Let’s be smart, pray, and keep a positive attitude of faith. Once this crisis has passed, may we be able to say it could have been much worse.

— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal weekend edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.

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