BALLARD: Spread happiness, not germs

March 16, 2014 

Somewhere in the reels and reels of 8mm film footage my grandfather filmed many years ago, there are a few minutes of me when I was a very small boy. The grainy and somewhat distorted black and white movie features me, clad in only a cloth diaper and nothing else, running through a group of relatives at a picnic.

I couldn’t have been more than 2 and my hands were obviously covered with mud. I don’t appear to be happy about it as I clumsily run from person to person trying to solicit help to get it off. Everyone thought it was funny. That is, except for me.

I was thinking about that footage the other day as I was wiping down my spin bike before class at the gym. I had to smile. Some things never change. I still can’t stand to have anything on my hands -- or on my bike for that matter. I stand there as if I’m painting the bike a different color and spray disinfectant all over its surfaces. I carefully wait for the germs to be killed and then I wipe off the excess and hopefully any other germs that escaped with it.

When I’m satisfied that it is clean, I put my water bottle in the holder. On rare occasions, I have forgotten and placed my water bottle in the holder before the spraying process. Then I’m scared to drink from the bottle since it became wet with disinfectant.

Before I mount the bike, I have to put hand sanitizer on my hands. Then, touching nothing on the way back to my clean bike, I’m ready to begin the class. Only then do I feel as if I’ve done everything within my power to prevent the spreading of germs. My spin teachers and fellow classmates chuckle, but I can see in their eyes they really think I’m a little weird. They’re probably right! I have to admit I’m afraid of germs and how they spread. I guess you would say I’m somewhat of a germaphobe.

Everyone who knows me knows how finicky I am about coming in contact with germs. I am constantly applying hand sanitizer to my hands every time I feel I’ve been placed in a situation that may have allowed a germ to go from one source to another. I always have the hint of a disinfectant swirling around me like a fragrant force field to protect me.

My wife has suggested on more than one occasion that I get a backpack full of Purell with a tube that allows me to spray freely. Thinking about it now, I feel it may not be such a bad idea!

Having someone accidentally spit in my face while talking or, God forbid, cough directly into my personal space, causes me to freak out.

The main reason is I don’t know what I can do to undo that kind of blatant germ damage. I mean, there are limits to Purell. I don’t think you’re supposed to ingest it.

I have people telling me all the time that our bodies need a certain amount of germ exposure and overusing anti-bacterials can be just as harmful to our health. That is definitely a concept I have a hard time grasping -- at least without a coat of Purell on my hands!

However, I do feel that unlike germs some things are supposed to be spread, like peanut butter and jelly, cake icing and paint. We also have the ability to spread kindness, happiness and joy. The other day, while ordering something at a drive-through window, I witnessed the spreading of joy.

I placed my order and then pulled up to the window to pay. The lady at the window was a matter-of-fact kind of person and offered nothing more back than my change. She had a frown on her face and appeared to be having a bad day. From around the corner with my order in her hand, another lady appeared and with her came a bubbling personality, a contagious smile and a kind word.

“Here’s your order, precious,” she said in an almost song-like way. “You have a great day and enjoy!” I drove away smiling because she had spread her happiness to me.

Her actions caused me to think as I drove home. I decided that it’s just as easy to pass along joy, laughter or a smile as it is a germ.

With each day, we have the ability to spread happiness to those around us. It doesn’t take much effort and certainly doesn’t cost a thing. We just have to be the good kind of contagious and share the positive things we have to offer with others. And by doing so, we feel better and they can then pass the happiness germs on to people around them.

Maybe that’s what I was trying to do all those years ago with the mud on my hands. Maybe I didn’t mind it being there at all and just wanted it give it away. Maybe I really wasn’t unhappy because of the dirt on my hands, but because I just had on a diaper and nothing else.

Yea, maybe that was it. Wait! I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it. Why do I feel the need to grab the Purell?

More with Mark

• Mark is again coordinating and emceeing the annual Cherry Blossom Festival Brunch and Fashion Show on March 27. Tickets are going fast. Get more information at or call 478-751-7429.

• Visit for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff including Mark’s tees, prints, cards and his collectible porcelain plates.

• Mark is on 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service