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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 7-8-22 – Thirty-Five Gallons (BUT NOT ALL AT ONCE)!

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” ― John Donne

I hit a goal last week. I have donated 35 gallons of blood (but not all at once). I started donating young. I learned to donate from my father. He had AB- blood, which is a rare type. I remember as a child he would regularly donate. Sometimes when there was an emergency, they would call him for a specific need. I found out I had B-, which is the second rarest types and I decided to become a donor. I thought it was cool to have a rare blood type until I realized that it would be harder to get a donation. On my gratitude list, I am adding that I have not ever needed one.

I started to donate with intention in early recovery. Addiction causes damage to many people on the periphery, and mine was no exception. When, in early recovery I considered the harms I had caused, I realized that I had hurt people I did not know. I thought that donating blood would be a way to help people anonymously, sort of a pay it back to the general ledger of society. I started contributing to our community blood supply at age 22. I have done so frequently over the last 35, years at a rate of about a gallon a year. Maybe I can hit 70 gallons before the big dirt nap.

How much is 35 gallons? Here is a 35-gallon tank for commercial farm use. The average human body contains somewhere between 1.2 and 1.5 gallons, so I have donated a college classroom of blood or so. Sorry for the morbid imagery. It takes a lot of work to collect, test, transport and store blood, it “sells” for up to $300 a unit or pint. Doing the math on that, the effort to get my blood to those who need it would be worth around $84,000. No doubt it is most expensive in communities without a community blood supply. I am grateful we have one.

The place I donate is Miller Keystone Blood. They note on their web site that there is no substitute for human blood. From cancer patients to accident victims, premature babies and more, we can help save lives in our community. They supply 22 hospitals and need 450 donors to meet the daily needs of transfusion patients. I can tell you I have met a lot of really wonderful people at the center over the years. Not in the Lehigh Valley? The Red Cross has a blood donation center locator HERE. You can save lives in your own community as long as you are not on the deferral list.

I have had time to reflect over the course of my years about donating blood and what it has meant to me. One of those reasons is that every time I donate, I realize how fortunate I am to be on the donor side of the transaction. I have health, it is an outright gift. How grateful I am to have gone so far in life without a cancer diagnosis or other factor that would put me on the deferral list. As a note, if you have cancer, you cannot donate when you are in active treatment and must wait 12 months until you can, with other restrictions on blood born conditions like Leukemia.

Every time I donate, I also reflect on community. I was raised in a different era, one in which we as a society placed greater value on community than we seem to do now. There was more of a “we” vibe than an “I” vibe. It was even more the case in the two preceding generations. I think that a great deal of what is wrong with us as a society is we seem to have lost our connection with each other and see ourselves as singular actors in life. Far be it from the case! A lot of people invested time and energy to get me where I am today. I am not alone in that regard. We as a society do better and are better when we put effort into supporting each other. I work towards a time when we seem to regain this basic understanding as a society of our obligation and the responsibility we have to each other. We need to get back on track.

Along those lines, I really do not care who I help. If a person has different religious beliefs, political beliefs, or any other difference that one can consider, I am grateful to be able to share my blood with them. I really do not see us as that different. We all have dreams and struggles to get through. I do not see people with different views as foes. It hurts my heart to see that the increasing view across our nation that people of different political parties or opinions as the enemy. To borrow the famous words of President Abraham Lincoln, “a house divided cannot stand.” We are as divided a nation as we were when he uttered those words, we must figure out a pathway back to being one people, undivided. Maybe donating blood can help that cause. I think actions matter, and I have put my own blood into this one.

I have learned that giving is more rewarding than taking. A focus on self-serving pursuits is a shallow way to live. If you read this and are inspired, please do something to help another person. Consider posting what you do to combat all the depressing news in the world. I am grateful to have the opportunity in life to give of what I have; others have given everything for all of us to be here now. They are on my list too.

What are you grateful for today?

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