Monday, March 28, 2011

The Gift of Life

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
~Kahlil Gibran

I’ve been thinking about all the natural disasters happening in the world- most recently of course the horrendous earthquake and tsunami in Japan that happened over 2 weeks ago.  The images and videos give us a glimpse of what it might have been like to live through that kind of horror, to witness your entire neighborhood- loved ones and all- being swallowed up and taken away.  But we can only begin to comprehend the devastation they suffered.  Not just physical, but emotional-- spiritual.  It seems that after these disasters occur, there is a flood of compassion, sympathy, and prayers from all around the world.  The world almost stops turning for a day or two as we all grieve with them.  There is almost constant widespread news coverage of the event, the relief efforts, and an outpouring of donations and support.

Then- a couple weeks go by, and the event seems to gradually fade from public consciousness.  We still care of course, but people seem to lose interest, and other news coverage (usually the latest scandal or titillating news story) takes its place.  But those who suffer are left- almost forgotten, when they need support and prayers the most.  In some ways their suffering may be worse.  The shock begins to wear off, and the victims have to cope with the new reality that has forced itself upon them- and begin to rebuild their homes and lives.

So I don't really know what I'm trying to say here.  It's not like we can dwell on these disasters forever- but it just saddens me- and I hope these survivors aren't forgotten.  And basically- I just want to DO something. I have this deep longing to do more than I am physically and financially capable of.  Every time I hear of any major natural disaster- Indonesia, Katrina, Haiti- I literally feel SICK inside and have an overwhelming desire (as I'm sure you do) to help somehow- in some way.  So we write out checks and send them away- hoping it will help someone out there.  Some family.  Some child.  But there's something so impersonal about that kind of giving, even though it's all we can do right now.  It's not like I can pack up my 5 kids and whisk them off to these devastated areas to join in the efforts to provide relief.  Not exactly feasible.  Someday though- in another season of life, I hope to be in a position to do just that.  But for now I will pray.  I know God can help these people know hope once again.

So I can't do much to help in Japan and other areas around the world other than give financially and pray.  But I've been thinking about other ways we can DO more to bless and serve others right here.  And I thought I’d share a story about someone who gave of himself (literally) to bless the life of another.

I’ll take you back to when I first met him. So I was in college- not a typical college girl- not into partying or dating around- just a hopeless romantic getting impatient for my prince charming to take me away.  I was sitting on my windowsill in my room thinking about my future husband and I wrote a totally cheesy heartfelt poem entitled “Where are you?":

Where are you when I need you so?

Come hold me in your arms and never let go.
If only I could gaze in your loving eyes
And feel the warmth of your touch.
I don’t even know you
Yet I love you so very much.
I wish you could be here to calm my fears
To hold me close and wipe away my tears.
You’re out there somewhere
Perhaps far, far away-
Or maybe even next door
When you find me, will you stay?

It turns out- my future hubby- my own dearest Mr. Wonderful really was next door!  He lived in the same apartment complex, and we had been neighbors for 5 months, and didn't know it.  I still have the original poem- and it will always be a treasure to me.  Anyway, I can still picture myself writing that poem- sitting on my windowsill- and I could actually see his window from mine!  We met in a college class 3 months after I wrote this poem and we both felt an immediate connection. Everything about him made me think he was THE ONE, except that… he had long hair. Really long hair.  Call me shallow, but frankly- that just wasn’t the look I was attracted to, plus I didn’t think he was the kind of guy I would feel comfortable taking home to my parents. But we developed a close relationship and quickly became best friends. Shortly thereafter, he revealed why he was growing out his hair… it was for Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children with long-term medical hair loss. Needless to say, I felt about this small.  I regretted being so judgemental, and fell in love at that moment!  He was also a regular blood donor and for one of our very first dates he took me to donate blood.  (I mean seriously- talk about a keeper!)

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when years later- in 2007, he brought up the idea of donating a kidney to a complete stranger. He was doing some research about other ways he could give- since his hair had been rejected since it was turning gray- (I call them highlights :)).  He was shocked when he learned that due to lack of available donors in the United States, 3,916 patients had died while waiting for a kidney transplant that year. When he mentioned that he was considering donating one of his, I immediately had some questions. But I remember his matter-of-fact response when I asked him why.

“Well, I have two, I only need one, and it could save someone’s life. So it’s a no-brainer.”

We did have to think through a few things though.  We had lots of questions including, "What are the risks involved? (minimum) Will the remaining kidney be able to compensate for the loss? (yes) What happens if down the road a family member needs a kidney?" (we'd hope another family member or friend would be willing to donate.) So we had lots of questions to consider, and recognized it was not a decision to be taken lightly. But after praying about it, and consulting with our family members and church leaders, we decided that it was the right choice for us.

On November 15, 2007, after months of testing and evaluations, the day finally arrived. I think I was more nervous than he was, but I tried to focus on the life he was going to bless. During our stay in the hospital, we had the opportunity to meet that life and his family. It was a special moment that was sweet beyond description for all involved. Now, a few years later, both the donor and the recipient are enjoying excellent health and have a special bond.

And now 5 kids later, I am so grateful that the man with the long hair turned out to be the man of my dreams. He is not only my hero, but he was a literal hero to someone in need.

My purpose in sharing this story is to inspire you to consider all the opportunities that are out there to give to those in need right here- all around us.  (And remember to keep praying for the victims in Japan!)
Here are some opportunities to give of ourselves to help save lives. 
Click on the links below for more info:

Donate Blood:
Find a blood drive near you!
If you’re ineligible to donate, click here for other ways you can help.

Donate Hair:
Learn about organizations that make wigs for those in need.

Donate Bone Marrow:
Learn about bone marrow donations.

Donate an Organ:
Learn about organ and tissue donations.

Common Myths about Organ Donations

The recovery was pretty rough- but the hardest part was keeping the kids off him.  They had a hard time understanding why they couldn't roughhouse together like they usually do!

Here he is wheeling the kids out after his operation.  Ha!  Shouldn't it be the other way around?

(Have I menioned that he's wonderful?)


Melisa said...

I'm speechless. You have an amazing hubby, Nicole.

The Woods said...

My dad lost all kidney function about 6 years ago. He was on dialysis for almost 2 years before he recieved a kidney from my mom (a miracle in itself). I can truly appreciate the sacrifice and selfless service.

Sarah C said...

That was a great experience to share. Thank you. I think you and your husband are two of the most compassionate people I know.


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