I've been a regular blood donor for a while, and last Wednesday I hit the three-gallon mark at the Rhode Island Blood Center's Narragansett office. Now before you start admiring the selflessness of my act, let me say that I've never believed wholeheartedly in the concept of altruism. Even Mother Teresa probably derived some joy from helping others, no?
When it comes to donating blood, I don't think it matters if your motives are a bit self-centered, so long as you get out there and just do it. There's almost always a shortage of blood of one type or another, especially in the summer months when people get all crazy on sunshine and fresh air and do stupid and injurious things to themselves and others.
Yes, I want to do my part to help out, but I also have to say, donating blood just makes me feel good.
Whenever I see those Rhode Island Blood Center commercials on TV, in which a teenage girl thanks blood donors for having saved her life, and calls them her heroes, I get all choked up. I think, "Hey, she's talking about me!" and then I feel all proud and happy.
Usually it takes a brave, larger-than-life deed to be labeled a hero. But giving blood? Ha! It's quick, painless and easy. It takes only about 45 minutes in all, including the interview, prep and post-donation snacks (the donation part itself lasts about 15 minutes). It hardly feels worthy of a thank-you, never mind the cookies and juice, and sometimes even pizza, posters and coffee mugs that they give you.
The Rhode Island Blood Center workers and volunteers are incredibly nice people, and they seem grateful and amazed that anyone would want to do this. And I'm amazed that anyone wouldn't want to!
There is so much suffering in the world that we can't do much about, but the chronic shortage of blood is a problem that all healthy people can easily do something about. Oh sure, I've heard all the excuses: I don't like needles, the sight of blood makes me sick (so don't look!), I know someone who knows someone who once had a bad experience — blah, blah, blah.
If you've ever uttered any of those words, I'm here to assure you that your fears, while I respect them, are overblown. It's truly no big deal. Look at me in that chair: Do I look like I'm suffering? Nope, I was kickin' back, watching a Rachel Ray cooking show and having some interesting conversations.
So why not call your local Red Cross or blood center and make an appointment to donate? Trust me, you'll feel great afterward — and somewhere a person in need might have a chance because you were willing to set aside your fears and spare 45 minutes of your time.