I believe it's my job to set a good example for my children. I try to be polite, to be forgiving, to smile easily and hug freely. But some things are more important than my every day behavior.
Every few months, I pack my children into the car, and I take them with me to donate blood.
I'm a card carrying LifeSource donor, but I've also donated to the American Red Cross. Every three months, I donate to whoever is hosting a blood drive. In Chicago, there is always a blood drive. Even when there's no event somebody's driving awareness for, there are donation centers scattered throughout the city. Donating blood saves lives, and it's easy to do. Particularly when you're a frequent donor.
I make my appointment. I show up for my appointment. I don't wait in lines, my paperwork is filled out in advance. All I have to do is answer a few questions, sit down in the chair, and squeeze a ball while by blood flows into a collection bag.
I don't do it so regularly simply because there's a need. I do it because every few months, I get to take my children with me. I get to tell them it's time to donate blood, and when they ask why, I tell them, "I'm donating blood so I can save three people's lives today." I want them to know it's that easy to make a life and death difference in somebody's life. I tell them that for their whole lives I've been doing this, and when they're old enough they can donate blood, too.
Each time we go off to donate my blood, I tell them that human beings are all made out of the same stuff. I tell them we can share parts, just like we share toys and food. I tell them that instead of sharing to make people happy, I'm sharing to make them healthy. I tell them I'm happy to do it.
There's another lesson I want them to learn from watching me donate blood, as though it's a totally normal part of any adult's routine. I want to teach them that all people are fundamentally the same. We all need the same things to live, we are all as capable of giving those things to each other. By donating blood, I'm teaching my children that the differences they see in others, religious, racial, cultural, those all fade away in the face of our shared humanity.
My children know if they ever need a kidney, or a lung, somebody may be able to share that with them, to help them be healthy. They know I'm on the national bone marrow registry. If I am ever called upon to donate marrow, I'll bring the children with me to that, too. I never want them to be more concerned with a little pain than with saving somebody's life.
I tell my children we don't get to keep our bodies forever, but that if we take care of ourselves we can do amazing things with our bodies. I tell them helping people is one of those things, and it's something other creatures can't do. By donating blood, I'm teaching my children about the amazing and humbling truths of being human.
Someday, I hope they sit around while I donate blood, with their own arms hooked up to collection bags, squeezing their own balls. I hope they learn to see their bodies as the life giving, life saving, life affirming creations they are.
I hope they can be somebody's hero someday. Three lives at a time.
Read more about essential life lessons here: You Need To Talk To Your Kids About White Supremacy
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