Make your life count, be someone’s hero in just one hourby Dennis Briskin
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Would you save the life of a stranger? Sure you would. Jews save lives. (Not “risk your life.” Just save the person without endangering your own life.)
What if she will never thank you, because she will never know your name? Would you save her without a “Thank you”?
Would you save a gentile? How about a Muslim? What about a drug dealer wounded in a police shootout? Or a Jew-hating terrorist? Do we have to save every life we can?
Jewish values say “Yes” to all.
How do you secretly save the life of someone who will never thank you? Give blood.
Read on for the details or, better yet, stop reading and make an appointment to donate. Saving a life trumps reading this newspaper and almost everything else. When you give blood, you express the highest Jewish values, including saving a life and giving anonymously. And your blood accomplishes real and immediate tikkun olam (repairing the world), Judaism’s overarching purpose.
Saving a life. This is at the top of Jewish values. With a few exceptions, we may break almost every commandment — including fasting on Yom Kippur and keeping Shabbat and kosher laws — to save a life, including our own.
By the time hospitalized patients need a blood product (red cells, white cells, plasma or platelets), they are seriously ill. Because donated whole blood gets separated into its components, the life in your blood can help save several patients.
Giving anonymously. The 12th-century philosopher of Spain and Egypt, Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, aka the Rambam) described eight levels of tzedakah, or charity. At the second-highest level, the donor and recipient are anonymous to each other. Most synagogues have a rabbi’s discretionary fund that enables this. (The highest level is to give a loan or teach a profession to enable a poor person to lift himself out of poverty.)
Medical confidentiality requires that you never know who gets your blood. You also cannot know what they do with their reclaimed lives. About you, patients know only that you cared enough to give up an hour and had compatible blood tissues.
Do not stand idly by the blood of your brother (Leviticus 19:16). Every day and night, someone’s beloved (parent, child, spouse, lover or friend) needs blood. We don’t know the person’s name, but that is no excuse. Judaism considers “your brother” to mean anyone. Once we know the need exists, Jewish law and custom demand we prevent injury, relieve suffering and restore health, no questions asked.
Can you remain idle while someone in your community fervently prays, “Save the life of my child”? If God answers that prayer, it may be through you.
Then why don’t you do it? Americans are a famously generous people, yet studies estimate less than 10 percent of eligible adults give blood. According to Vince Yalon, retired administrative director at the Stanford Blood Center in Palo Alto, two chief barriers stop people from donating: time and irrational fears for their safety.
Even with convenient mobile blood drives at work, high schools, churches and synagogues, you will have to take time to get to a donation site. Once there, however, the donation process, from walking in the door to walking out, takes about one hour. A healthy donor can give every eight weeks. Can’t you spare one hour in eight weeks to save a life?
Many people mistakenly believe they can get AIDS or some other blood-borne disease from donating blood. That never happens. Everything is sterile, used once and destroyed afterward as hazardous waste. Donating is completely safe.
If giving blood were a threat to one’s health, the several hundred Stanford donors who have given at least 100 times would have felt it by now and stopped giving. Instead, we meet every autumn for a breakfast buffet and Q&A the blood center hosts to say “Thank you” to its elite donors.
Need other reasons to give? After you donate, you will enjoy knowing:
• You did something fine most people will not do.
• Your life counts for more than your self-centered desires.
• To somebody somewhere, you will always be a hero.
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