Friday, July 17, 2009

Tapped like a keg

I've read that only 5% of the eligible donor population gives blood. For most of my life I've been part of the majority. Today I switched sides.

I grew up in a faith that held blood sacred, and so would not consume blood or blood products, nor allow them in their bodies via transfusion. You can imagine that giving blood was similarly forbidden. I left that faith behind long ago, but that strong taboo remained in my subconscious. Coupled with my unease around blood and needles, it was easy to just skip it every time the call went out.

The cries of the needy eventually got too loud to ignore, though. The experience was relatively painless, since they come right to my building to hold the drive. From picking up the information packet to walking back to my desk took 70 minutes. I was a bit more lightheaded than I expected to be, otherwise it would have been even sooner.

(In reference to my previous post on fitness and diet you'll be happy to hear I ate a packet of raisins instead of cookies afterward.)

The whole experience got me thinking, though. A lot of the indoctrination I received as a child contained rational components. If you imagine a society that lives a certain way, it's easy to come up with reasons why certain religious commands make sense. And yet I was able to reason my way out of them, fairly easily, as I became an adult. But "God demands you hold blood sacred" is inherently irrational. There's no societal benefit hiding in the wings, nothing but a remnant of ancient superstition interpreted as divine law.

I reasoned my way out of all those superstitions years ago. And yet I skipped every blood drive my company hosted, for over a decade.

But today I took a stand for reason and for the rational betterment of the human race. It felt good. I was so busy being happy about that, that it didn't occur to me until later that the pint I gave could someday save someone's life.


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