When I was 17 years old, I donated blood for the very first time. A group of us from our high school went together holding hands and holding our breath as we tried to expect the unexpected. A small girl then, I barely met the weight requirements for donation and had a difficult time with light-headedness. A fellow classmate actually passed out. It wasn't the most wonderful experience, certainly not one conducive to repeating. But repeat it I did.
All through college, lying on rubbery lawn-type chairs in the chilly student union; at the Presbyterian Church in the town where I used to live, at the hospitals where I worked, and later, in my own church. Sometimes it didn't phase me, but most of the time it took a day or two to fully feel like myself again.
Nineteen ninety-nine was the last time I donated. Until today. In the six years inbetween I struggled with anemia and was turned away by the nurses; for my own health as much as for the recipient's.
Nearly two years ago I, myself, received two blood transfusions: one before and the second following surgery. I immediately felt new life coursing through my veins as the old, worn-out me was replaced with vibrance and energy. I saw things from the other side of the hospital bed and it reaffirmed the importance of this life-altering - sometimes life-saving - gift.
Sometimes it's easy to let the opportunity pass. We feel given out. It seems as if one more person asks something of us we will disintegrate into a million little pieces, overwhelmed, fatigued, worn-out. But today, when my day started off with a major set-back, giving to someone else was exactly the right thing to get my focus back on track.
So whether it's a pint of blood, or simply a smile....give. You have no idea the extraordinary gift it may turn out to be.