A while back on Ellie’s 10 –year retrospective post she mentioned – casually and in passing – that she’d donated a kidney to her father. She even posted a picture of her gigantic scar. If you’ve never read Me, You and Ellie this “Let’s Call it a Decade” post is a good post to start with. All three of these women lead remarkable lives.
Anyway, when I read about her giving up one of her kidneys to save her father’s life, I thought, “Wow, that is incredibly amazing and brave and selfless.” And then I wondered if I would be able to do something like that. Because my generosity has never been challenged to such an extent. In fact, overall, I’ve led a pretty self-centered life.
Becoming a parent can be said to be an act of selflessness, because lord knows you give up a lot of yourself mentally, physically, materially and every other way from before that child is even brought into the world until forever. But in at least as many, if not more ways, becoming a parent is also a very selfish act. The balance, I suppose depends on what sort of parent you are.
So other than the arguably selfless act of becoming a parent, and the one time when I sort of almost saved my child’s life maybe, I haven’t done anything that could be considered really altruistic.
Some people give up a lot of their time to volunteering. As we discovered a few posts ago, time is a very valuable and non-renewable commodity, so I admire people who give up their free time to helping others. I’ve done very little volunteering in the last 17 years. When XUP Jr. was young my excuse was always that I couldn’t leave her home alone while I went out to do good deeds. I don’t have that excuse anymore.
Some people choose professions that require them to put their lives on the line almost every day. Firefighters, for instance, are always in danger. So are soldiers. So are other people who work or volunteer in war zones or in third world or other countries with political unrest. There are even people who work here at home in areas where danger is a regular part of their day.
Then there are those stories of people who sacrifice themselves at the spur of the moment, without hesitation, to save someone else’s – a stranger’s – life. They dive into the ocean to rescue a drowning child. They run into a burning building because they hear someone calling for help. They plunge into traffic to push someone out of the way of a bus and end up getting killed by that same bus. These people amaze me.
As do the people who donate kidneys or bone marrow or bits of their liver or skin tissue or ova or who bear children for others who can’t. And they’re donating while they’re still alive to family, friends and even strangers. How do they come to such a decision?
After I’m dead anybody can have whatever parts of me are still useful as far as I’m concerned – but a live donation? For my child, no question, I would donate whatever she needed. But for anyone else? Even a sibling or a parent? Man, I’d love to be able to say “absolutely” and I think, probably when it came to the crunch I’d do it. But, if I’m being completely honest, I’d have to say there is some doubt. It would depend on the circumstances, the risks, the benefits – I’d have to think about it. I hope I’d say yes.
What about you? What is the most selfless thing you’ve ever done? Or, what if someone you knew needed your kidney? Would you hesitate knowing the donation would affect the quality of your life and maybe even shorten your life, nevermind the risks inherent in such major surgery?
 She was about 6 and we were walking along, hand in hand, on the sidewalk when around the corner of a building comes running a big, ugly Rottweiler – teeth bared, growling and charging right at us. Without thought or intention, I stepped in front of my daughter and kicked the dog in the chops a split second before he pounced. At that same instant the owner came around the corner and yelled at the dog and then yelled at me for kicking his dog. XUP Jr. was screaming to beat the band and I finally came to understand what an adrenaline rush really feels like. But most of all, I was incredibly relieved that my first instinct was to protect my daughter. One never knows, right? Humans are programmed for self-preservation, right? How devastating would it have been if I’d just shouted “RUN! EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!” and had taken off?
 Like Mrs. Jellyby of Dickens’ Bleak House. What an awesome novel that is – and I mean “awesome” in the full sense of the word.