Blow­ing your trum­pet

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIV­ING - MARY SCHNEIDER star2@thes­

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.face­ writer. Reader re­sponse can be di­rected to star2@thes­

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