Blowing your trumpet
Sthere’s nothing wrong in taking pride in one’s good deeds, is there? OME years ago, I met a man on a London train who had a little badge in his jacket lapel proclaiming that he had donated enough blood in his lifetime to oxygenate at least a dozen men.
“I reckon I’ve saved a few lives,” he said, somewhat proudly. “Everyone who can should donate blood.”
I’d never donated blood before, or a kidney, or enough money to feed a starving African child for a week, so I did feel a little guilty.
However, a friend who had been travelling with me felt otherwise.
“Why should you feel guilty?” she said. “It’s not as if he is being selfless. He donates blood to help people, but he also gets something out of it. He gets a badge and also a kick out of telling others what he’s done. There’s something not quite right with people who feel the need to blow their own trumpet.”
Obviously on a roll, she began discussing the motives of people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. “They donate money to research or charity or whatever they consider to be a deserving cause, but it doesn’t affect their lifestyle one little bit. A million dollars is a lot to most people, but it’s nothing to them. They also advertise their deeds quite widely, so everyone knows what they’re doing. That’s their payback.”
“What about Mother Theresa?” I asked. “She was carrying out her good deeds in the slums of India long before she became a household name. Are you telling me she did that just to make herself feel good?”
“No, she probably did it purely for religious reasons. So she could guarantee herself a cosy spot in Heaven.” “Well, I hope she got it.” Upon returning to Malaysia, I decided to visit the blood bank at Penang’s General Hospital. I also tried to get a few friends to donate blood with me.
“Oh, I can’t do that. I was in the UK when Mad Cow’s disease was doing the rounds,” said one friend. “I recently acquired a tattoo,” said another. “I’m feeling run down,” said yet another.”
There was no end of excuses stopping people from donating blood. Indeed, when I showed up at the blood bank a few days later, I was entirely on my own.
But my good deed didn’t get off the ground.
“Sorry,” said the lab technician working in the hospital’s blood bank, after carrying out a few quick blood tests on me, “you’re way too anaemic to donate blood. We’ll give you some iron tablets and perhaps you can come back in a few months when your red blood cell count is a little higher.”
I left the hospital feeling somewhat disappointed and confused.
Like, if you were dying and in need of blood, wouldn’t you just take any old blood, anaemic or otherwise? I find it odd that someone can lead a relatively healthy life, but their blood still isn’t considered suitable to help someone suffering from a severe loss of blood brought about by, say, a chronic nosebleed; or a runaway machine chewing off half their leg; or an accidentally severed artery (if someone severs their artery on purpose, the last thing they want is to be saved).
I don’t know about you, but if I’m bleeding to death, I think I’d be happy to take my chances with the anaemic stuff.
Also, from a donor’s point of view, if my blood could be used to help save a life, I would be very happy. I would get a huge kick out of it.
I used to share my friend’s opinion about some so-called charitable deeds. For example, I remember once sitting on a hospital bench that had the donor’s name engraved on it and thinking, “Are some people so egotistical that they can’t even provide a hospital with a simple bench without making a fuss about it? Or donate the funds for a university library without having the building dedicated to them? Or put their efforts into acquiring a cure for some of the diseases that afflict mankind without seeking publicity for their deeds?”
But I don’t think that way anymore.
Although I still prefer a more modest approach, I don’t care if Bill Gates or anyone else seeks publicity for their works of charity. I don’t care if someone’s humanitarian efforts are ego driven. I don’t care if someone wants to tell the whole world how some of their blood is now coursing through the veins of a hundred other people.
Whatever it is that drives someone to give of their time and/or their money, they still make a difference. And that’s what matters.
Maybe they can just turn the trumpet volume down a little. n Check out Mary on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mary.schneider. writer. Reader response can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.