Act Your Age… Donating to Charity

First appeared in the March 2, 2011 issue of Retirement News Weekly

There was once a bearded guy who watched as various parishioners entered a temple to make their offering. They were handing over big bucks, but the dude wasn’t impressed. “What are a couple hundred bucks when you have thousands to spare?” he figured. Then this widow comes into the temple. The man watches as she reaches into her purse, pulls out the few dollars she has, and offers them up. It barely makes a difference to this temple’s annual revenue. But the dude’s impressed and he turns to his buddies and says, “That widow gave more to this temple than any of those rich guys.”

When you’re a recent graduate looking for work or a retiree living on a budget, it’s important to remember these sorts of things. Give of yourself what you can because everything is relative. That’s one of the reasons why every couple months I find myself at a Canadian Blood Services (CBS) clinic to donate a pint of blood.

I got the call recently from CBS, while in a grocery store (they always call me while I’m shopping for groceries somehow), and they prompted me to schedule my appointment.

“The sooner the better,” I said and I was booked a week from the day.

The clinic is only down the street, so on the evening of my appointment, I bundled up in my warmest jacket and made my way. I arrived with time to spare and after signing in with the receptionist, I was prompted along the assembly line of blood retrieval. The next stop was a nurse. She made polite small talk before stabbing me in the finger with a pin (well… she used a special contraption that pricks your finger to extract a touch of blood). Because I’m so strong and my blood has lots of iron (I think that’s what high iron means), I was approved and given a questionnaire to fill out.

Have I ever lived in Africa? No. Have I donated blood in Quebec? No. Have I played with monkeys? Only in my dreams (That’s actually one of the questions on the survey!). With the questionnaire filled out, a nurse brought me into a small room and proceeded to ask me a range of more personal questions about past illnesses and my sexual history.

This is the hard part for me. After the questions, the nurse checks your pulse and blood pressure and mine tend to run a little high (I’ve gotten it checked by my doctor and he said I was fine). She strapped me into the contraption and it did its thing. Too high. I was concerned because I’d already come so far and didn’t want to be rejected. They checked it again. Still too high. Finally she said she’d check it manually and thankfully it was just below the maximum. Perfect!

When I was younger I was terrified of needles (I was actually terrified of a lot of things). However I remember the exact moment I got over this fear. I was in junior high school and it was the Hepititis B vaccine. In the past, I had gotten it at the health clinic in order that my “freaking out” would remain confidential between me and my doctor. This time that precaution had been overlooked and suddenly I was going to have my skin pierced in front of all my peers. We were herded to the school’s library and one at a time stepped forward, got our injection from the school nurse, and earned a box of juice. Time stood still as I waited in that line, but that didn’t stop my turn from arriving. What was I going to do? I looked over at the cute girls in my class, stepped forward, and sucked it up. No problem. You do what you have to in order to save face in front of women.

My point is: the needle isn’t a problem for me. It was a small pinch, 11 minutes of slight discomfort, and presto! I was done! I got my cookie, put on my layers of jackets, and headed back out into the snow.

The pint of blood given by any particular donor is separated into three units – plasma, platelets, and red blood cells. These units are then administered to three different patients, each with a unique need: the red blood cells are used to help accident victims, surgical patients or people with anaemia; the platelets help treat leukemia and cancer patients; and the plasma treats patients suffering from burns or shock. Thus, when anyone donates blood, he or she has effectively helped save three lives.

But on a limited budget there are other ways to donate to a worthy cause and that brings me to Heidi Bezanson. As mentioned in the last Act Your Age, Heidi is a friend of mine that brought me to church. This week she donated her hair to charity.

Heidi wanted to shave her head for a while. It’s on her list of things to do before she turns 30. So this month she started raising money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation and luvHaiti in hopes that her upcoming baldness wouldn’t be in vain. She raised over $600 and the day of her shaving finally arrived. After a church service, she sat in a chair that she brought from home and let her friend Sarah Mott cut all the braids off her head. There was only a slight grimace and then a smile on Heidi’s face, as Sarah cut one by one. Then, came the shaving. She took it with high spirits and gave her hair to help!

You too can help! Like the widow in the temple, it doesn’t matter how much you give, but how much of yourself you’re giving. Whether its money or blood or hair, it’s important to contribute and help this human race truck along.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in donating blood to CBS, check out their website at www.bloodservices.ca. If you want to know more about Heidi’s balding and the charities she is involved with, check out her blog at heidisheadshaving.blogspot.com. And if you want to suggest a retirement activity for me to try, email me at jeffdeviller@gmail.com.

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