I had to take my daughter Ayden to the doctor the other day. It was something I had really been avoiding. With everything going around, a doctor's office was about the last place I wanted to be. And the doctors felt the same. I was warned that unless I really needed to bring her in, it would be best to avoid the office at all costs. If there was a breeding ground for the flu, H1N1, and whatever else could be contracted, it was that waiting room.

The cynic in me wants to downplay the hysteria Now, the cynic in me wants to downplay the whole current hysteria. I mean, waiting rooms are usually filled with sick patients, right? And I have never panicked before, even though my children and I were surely exposed to a variety of illnesses the numerous times we went for appointments. And yet, this visit was quite different.

Ayden has bronchial asthma. Basically, when it flares she coughs fairly nonstop. And it flares from the time summer ends until it begins once again. Generally her inhaler keeps things under control, but this time the cough really didn't sound good. As a precaution, wanting to be sure she wasn't contagious and could continue going to school, I brought her to the doctor for the green light.

The waiting room was packed. And everyone there was wearing a protective mask over their noses and mouths. And yes, I gave into the peer pressure and put one on myself as well. I mean, after all, who wants to be the only person in a room not wearing a mask?

Well, now we all looked ridiculous, but the important lesson I learned made it well worth it.

Generally the protective mask is worn by the person who is contagious, so that he cannot infect anyone in the vicinity. But in the waiting room, everyone donned a mask. Chances are that few, if any, of the people in the waiting room actually had H1N1 or were at all contagious. And yet, everyone wore a mask. Why? Very simple: everyone was scared of contracting a disease.

But when we all had our masks on, those protecting themselves and those protecting others all became one. Ultimately, it didn't matter what the intention was; we were all both helping ourselves and helping the person next to us at the exact same time.

Ultimately, it didn't matter what the intention was How often do parents send their sick kids to school? How often do we go to work or a public gathering with a sore throat or fever since we have too much work to do or don't want to miss the party? We almost all do it. We have to feel pretty awful to turn down something we should, or really want to, attend. And then, if we do forego the event, it is because we simply weren't up to it—not out of consideration for the others who will be there.

Rare is the occasion when we actually feel pretty okay, but decide that a fever in the afternoon might mean being contagious in the evening. Even more rare to keep a bouncing and happily medicated child home for a day because, though she is feeling better, she is still contagious for the first twenty four hours on that antibiotic. At least in my experience, if my kids are feeling pretty good, I generally overlook that contagious period figuring that anyway half the kids in school are coughing with runny noses. And you know what…they are! Which is actually how my kid probably got sick in the first place.

So essentially we have been living in a "what goes around comes around" mentality. We keep getting each other sick because we are not willing to think of the other's wellbeing.

So what changed in that waiting room? Ironically, because of our fear of getting sick, we behaved in a more concerned and appropriate manner. Was our motive selfish? Sure! But who cares? Ultimately, if I don a mask because I am scared of getting sick, then I also protect you from whatever I might have. So in protecting ourselves we are actually protecting the other.

And this is a phenomenon that, of late, has actually become more and more prevalent in society.

Doing so has sensitized us Our sages teach that if someone does the right thing for the wrong reason, he will eventually come to do the right thing for the right reason. Now people are using sanitizer and washing their hands. And because they are doing it, you and I are less likely to get sick from being around them. And because we are taking the same precautions, they are less likely to get sick from us. We are doing the right thing. It doesn't even matter if it is for the right or wrong reason anymore.

And doing so has sensitized us. When my daughter coughs, I am quick to assure everyone it is asthma and not bronchitis. And when I am not sure? I take her first thing to the doctor.

It has taken an illness to make us hyperaware of our own fragility, sensitivity and ability to affect and be affected by others. And in our attempts at self-protection, we are creating a society of concern and care for the other. Because I am worried about getting sick, I am worried if you are sick. And I want you to get better. Everyone does. Because you being sick could affect us all.

If only we were always so hyperaware and sensitive. If only we watched the words that came out of our mouths with the same intensity that we do our germs. But we are getting there. For after all, we are moving in the right direction. And we are learning that we really all do affect one another and that we all need to protect one another. For like it or not: how we feel, act and behave is contagious.