Wednesday, December 19, 2018

On Helping

So, one thing I have been torn about through this whole process. On the one hand, this is something I am doing because I want to do it, because it is help that is needed that I can provide: not because I want everyone to think I'm a wonderful human being. Part of me would like to do the whole thing fairly quietly and just not tell many people.

On the other hand, I want other people to do it, too. Over 120,000 people are on the UNOS waiting list, and the vast majority of them are waiting for kidneys. Over 100,000 people who will die if they don't get what most of us have an extra of! Just think, if 20,000 people - a tiny smidgen of the adult population of the US - decided to become non-directed donors, and each of those people started a chain with 5 people in it, that list could be wiped out! All those people would LIVE!

As of this morning, there were actually six people hoping for my one kidney. You see, my matched recipient is in another state, and my kidney will be flown to him/her (let's just say "her", it's easier). But, what if she got sick this morning and they can't do surgery on her? Or, what if the weather here cancels flights, and my kidney is stuck in NM? So there are two back-up recipients in MN, and two here in NM. That means that, while one person is going to be extremely happy by the end of the day, four will be disappointed. That is heartbreaking to me.

A few people have asked "What caused you to make this decision right now?" The thing is, I would have signed up ages ago if I had known about it. I just didn't know about it. So if I blog about it and talk about it, maybe there will be someone else who finds out - "Wait, I can save someone's life now, not after I'm gone?" Or someone who thought about it will see the process isn't that scary, and decide to go ahead with it.

I teach my kids, you should help when you can. Helping does not have to mean becoming a living donor. It can mean donating money, it can mean delivering a meal, helping someone move, watching someone's kids, speaking up when someone is being hateful, giving someone a break when they can't seem to catch one, taking a moment to notice someone (have I mentioned how much I love this book?) Little things count. They add up. That does NOT mean we can say, "Yeah, I put my shopping cart back where it went AND somebody else's, so I'm good for the week." There isn't a quota system.

It also doesn't mean selling everything you own and giving it to the guy on the street corner and living in a cardboard box yourself. I mean, would that even really help him? If that's where you feel the nudge to help, then go talk to him. Get to know him. Take him to lunch. Figure out what would really help him. Does he need a job? A shower? Does he need you to lobby for mental health services? Donate blankets to the local shelter? Start a local shelter? 

Maybe you can't do that. You can't do everything. You don't have to, and nobody expects you to. My favorite president said it pretty simply:

Image result for do what you can with what you have where you are

It means treating other people as fellow human beings who are in this with us, not as something beneath us or "other" than us because of some artificially drawn (and temporary - study your history, people) lines, or economic status, or beliefs or customs or life choices. It means doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. It means paying attention to the basic laws of humanity.

And guess what? Donating a kidney doesn't mean I am done helping people (or animals!) I don't get to sit back and smugly say, "I gave a BODY PART, people, I've done my share." Nope. There are still ways I can help people, so I still have the responsibility to do it. I mean, I might not be delivering meals for the next week or so, but - after that!

Does any of this make sense? I hope so. I'm typing it up before I go under the knife, so I can't blame the after-effects of anesthesia. 

It's the holiday season. Hanukkah ended a couple weeks ago, Solstice is in a couple days, and Christmas is just around the corner. Not a big fan of New Year Resolutions, but let's call it a goal. Make it a priority to look for ways you can help in 2019. While we are decimating that UNOS list, just think of all the other great changes we could make along the way!

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