Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Compassion Hurts

And it isn't easy either.

It is putting the needs of others before your own, trading your momentary comfort to relieve the pain of others. Or maybe I'm being a bit dramatic after giving blood on Monday.

The last time I attempted to donate blood was in 2005, I was 21 and they turned me down because I got a tattoo a couple months prior. I was a young buck with a wounded ego, "what do you mean I can't donate?" The lady I spoke with attempted to explain something about hepatitis from getting ink done but I wasn't paying attention. Actually, I was trying to donate plasma and was in it for the money. But this time was different. On Monday, the Red Cross was holding a Blood Drive in the same building I had class in so I thought I'd try again. Not for money, or for bragging rights, but because I wanted to help the people of Haiti (which I assumed is what this blood drive was for) anyway I can. I can't fly over there to help in the rescue, and I could donate money instead, but what's $50? What's $200? Why not give life itself?

I was nervous, not out of the process itself but of rejection. What if my blood is no good, or worse, what if I have a health condition that they don't catch until given to the recipient? I eventually rationalized that these people are experts and my worries were unfounded. After a series of questions and paperwork they sat me down and began the process. The needle itself, although menacing ("you're sticking that in me?"), was no more than a mere pinch. I stared at the clock and squeezed my fist as instructed every 10 seconds.

8, 9, 1o, squeeze, 1, 2, 3...

I watched the doctors, nurses, and volunteers buzz around with their duties, and, shamefully, eavesdropped on some of the conversations. Apparently, one young donor had been born in Germany in 1990 and the staff was trying to determine whether or not it was safe to accept her blood (one of the questions for eligibility asked if you had lived for a total of 6 months in Europe from 1980-1990). As the minutes went by I (my ego) was content that I had made it thus far without dizziness or feeling faint. And then it happened. The room spun and I had a warm tingling sensation run through my body. The nurse elevated my feet and I remained in that position until they concluded taking my blood.

I felt pale and nauseous, although what I went through is nothing compared to how my poor wife felt when she almost bled to death during the birth of our firstborn. All I could think (my ego again) was how much of a lightweight I was, can't even donate blood without getting dizzy. Reading the nurse's expression at the station across from mine I concluded I must have looked dreadful. It was then I realized that as I voluntarily hurt for someone I'll never meet, the medics at the blood drive voluntarily hurt for people they've only just met. I may have been delirious but I could have sworn I experienced compassion drip from every person in that room. Strangers helping strangers give life to strangers. What I went through was a minor inconvenience, yet these collection of minor inconveniences help to reduce the pain and suffering of others. How can we hate our neighbor when we share the same spring, the same life source? I have the potential for hatred but I can't rationalize the need to hate someone for any reason whatsoever. How can mankind be at odds with itself while ignoring our deep interdependence and interconnectedness with one another? We need and are interconnected with each other as my internal organs depend on each other to function.

Compassion hurts, but life would hurt more without it.


captron52 said...

I wholeheartedly agree with every word my friend. Maybe one day we will arrive a t the point in time when all humans learn to live in peace and harmony. Keep up your great posts. They do inspire others and your work is very badly needed in this world. I salute you my friend!

shallowfrozenwater said...

i've given blood for years but i could never express those feelings the way that you just did. thank you.

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