True confession: I have never registered myself as an organ donor, and I’ve only once given blood. (I have a bit of an excuse on the blood front as I only recently realized I could donate after having Hep A in my 20s.)
Of course, if one of my kids needed a body part, I’d hand it over in an instant. The same would go for any loved one, or even an acquaintance. In fact, if I knew I was a match for little Joshua, a six-year-old Richmond boy who was recently diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of leukemia (see page 13), I would be honoured to be the one to donate the bone marrow he desperately needs.
So, if I’m a kind and compassionate person who genuinely wants to help, why have I neglected to take the little time required to roll up my sleeve or put myself on the registry?
The answer has nothing to do with religious or philosophical opposition. If anything, I view donating as the right and moral thing to do. Rather, I think my reluctance has more to do with being numbed by statistics and not making the link between my actions and the life (or death) of another. That, combined with a generally creepy feeling about what organ donation means — which is my own mortality.
Yet, when I connect with another, for whatever reason, all that indifference and squeamishness is washed aside. What takes over is a very base instinct to do whatever is necessary to help.
It’s not unlike when three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on the shores of Turkey. We all knew migrants fleeing Syria were suffering horribly, but it was the heart-breaking sight of one child’s lifeless body that seemed to turn the tide.
We shouldn’t need a “poster child” for every cause. We should be able to use our intellect to make an educated guess as to what others are experiencing. And often we do, but just as often we (at least I) become overwhelmed by the numbers of people suffering everywhere, and succumb to the sense that we have enough on our plates.
Just earlier this week, the United Nations declared the dire situation for children in Yemen has reached unprecedented levels. To hear the details is to make one sick.
I don’t know exactly what to do to help those children, but it might start with recognizing the disconnect between my compassion and my actions — which takes me back to Joshua.
I’m not going to donate my bone marrow to that little boy. They’re looking for a donor between 18-35 years old, preferably of mixed ethnicity; I don’t fit either criteria. But I know well enough there are many Joshuas out there. What I will do (especially now I’ve outed myself) is sign that registry.
Thank you, Joshua, for helping me walk the talk. Lord knows, it’s a long road, but here’s to a first step.
Eve Edmonds is the editor of the Richmond News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org