Have you ever heard of Typhoid Mary? If not, let me give you a quick history. Her real name was Mary Mallon. Born in Ireland in 1869, Mary immigrated to the United States in 1884. Like many young Irish immigrant women of her day, she found employment as a domestic servant for some of the wealthier families in New York City. Between 1900 and 1907, there was a surprising outbreak of Typhoid Fever among the city’s elite families. It was surprising because this type of illness was mainly associated with unsanitary conditions in poor communities. After an intense investigation by a trained civil engineer, George Soper, it was determined that the one common denominator in this outbreak was an obscure house cook named Mary Mallon.
With a dogged determination, Soper was eventually able to hunt Mary down and after intensive testing, it was determined that she was an asymptomatic carrier of Typhoid Fever. Simply put, she wasn’t sick but she carried the germ that made others sick. In spite of her diagnosis and the health threat she posed to others, Mary refused to cooperate with the authorities. Because of her obstinance, Mary was put into forced isolation for three years. After a lengthy court battle and with the supposed help of William Randolph Hearst, Mary was able to regain her freedom. However, there was one stipulation. She must never work again as a cook. Unfortunately, Mary was unable to stay out of the kitchen and shortly after her release she found employment as a cook at Manhattan’s Sloane Maternity Hospital. Unsurprisingly, there was a sudden outbreak of Typhoid Fever among the hospital staff causing 25 workers to be infected and two deaths. Once again, the authorities apprehended Mary and this time it was determined that she was too much of a risk to the public health, so she was forced to spend the rest of her life in isolation.
Over the course of her life, it is documented that Mary Mallon infected fifty-one people, three of whom died. Many believe this number is actually much higher. Mary Mallon, also known as Typhoid Mary, is forever associated with someone who knowingly or unknowingly spreads around a disease or something that is unwanted.
Do you know a Typhoid Mary? Better yet, are you a Typhoid Mary? Are you spreading around stuff that no one really wants? Are you infecting others with strife and discouragement? Are others worse off because they have been in your presence? It doesn’t have to be that way. You can be a source of life to those around you. This Holiday season when you are around family and friends, let me encourage you to make people better because they have been in your presence. Make it your goal to have a positive impact on those you know and love. Infect them with some good stuff. People need encouragement. They need good examples and positive reinforcement. In 2 Timothy 1:16, Paul says that his friend, Onesiphorus, had “refreshed his spirit.” Paul felt encouraged and more alive because of the time he spent with his friend. Isn’t that what you want others to say about you?