Being from Alabama, I am used to phrases like, “Bless his/her heart,” or “Bless you child” in casual conversation. That is just good churchin’. As a member of the civilized world I am used to having someone say “God bless you” or just “Bless you” after I sneeze. That is just good manners.
What I am not used to is having complete strangers stop me and offer a hearty, “God Bless You,” for absolutely no reason other than because they felt like it. The first time this happened I had wondered if I had sneezed or, heaven forbid, passed gas and not realized. The second time I had an urge to run for my life. The third time I just gave a rather puzzled “Thank you… Bless you too?” And the fourth time I sent my friend who is native to NYC and the Bronx a text message asking the following:
“When strangers stop me on the street and say “God bless you” for no apparent reason what is the proper response – A. bless them back. B. Run like hell. C. Say thank you and chat about the weather.”
Low-and-behold it is quite normal and not at all alarming to have a complete stranger bless you in NYC. The proper response is to just say thank you and go about your day. No need to run. No need to re bless and no need to worry that you had perhaps sneezed on the subway without even knowing it.