Missional blood

“It’s easier to get people to give money than to give blood.”

This was the quotation that caught my attention in Sunday’s L.A. Times. There was a large article about the significant blood shortage in L.A., and concern over the fact that it was a holiday weekend with an increased chance of traumas and injuries that could require blood services in local medical centers. The article stated that typically, there is a three-day supply of “emergency” blood, that is the kind of blood that can be given to anyone (I can’t remember the type now, but I think Doug is one such donor) without risking rejection, but currently there was only a three-hour supply going into the long weekend.

The article was interesting on a number of fronts, noting the many changes that have made blood collection more challenging, more expensive, and ultimately much more safe. The series of safeguards that are now in place for protecting the blood supply are quite reassuring, and I don’t think I had ever considered the ways those safeguards would negatively impact the amount of blood collected. The article also spent a little bit of time discussing cultural differences that made giving blood highly unlikely among certain ethnic groups. Again, something I had never thought about.

So why am I worrying about blood? Because I am one of those people whose life was saved by blood transfusions. I took in more than half of my body’s blood volume in blood that was not my own. And after two days, though extremely weak and functioning with still-low levels, I was able to hold my baby girl again.

To this day, I get choked up by the Red Cross billboards that I see around town. Pictures of children, pleading for a chance to live, in need of a healthy blood supply so that they can. Or pictures of parents, playing with their kids, who say “thank you” for the blood that kept them alive to watch their children grow up. I am one of those parents, and there is such a deep gratitude that I feel for those people who took the time to stop by their corporate blood drive, or volunteered to give on their college campus, or even took the initiative themselves to drop by a donation center and make a regular gift. My husband has always been one of those people: faithful and consistent in making sure he was donating blood regularly. According to the L.A. Times article, people like Doug are now simply too few and far between.

I was thinking about this issue as a Christian, and I realized, wow, what a perfect act of service, what a perfect expression of our gospel it is to give blood. It is anonymous: okay, maybe you get a special little sticker to wear after you do it, but for the most part it is certainly not about any glory or recognition! It is good stewardship: it is a sharing of your resources; a new way to live simply, even, by not hoarding more than you need! It is most likely a cross-cultural act: lines of race and ethnicity, gender and economics are crossed! And ultimately, it is an act of mercy, compassion, and generosity that allows for us to enter into an individual’s pain and suffering, and provide care and healing and relief. It is quite simply a way for us to choose the path of the Good Samaritan rather than the avoid/evade option of the Priest and the Levite.

So, here is my challenge: wherever you live, please consider taking the time to make a donation of blood, or better yet, consider how you can help mobilize others to do so as well. Churches should be the first place that people are active in giving this gift, should they not? As I prepare to give birth again in a matter of weeks, the issue remains quite present for me in my mind. So please, go and give blood and think of me and my sweet little girl who still has a mommy around, and the many others whose lives are saved by this “missional” act.

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