I gave blood last Friday. Here's why that's a big thing.
The last time I gave - or attempted to give - blood was January 4th, 2002. I know this because I saw it listed on the paperwork as I sat squeezed into a "room" no larger than a bathroom stall at the back of the Hoxworth Bloodmobile. I was very nearly in the lap of the young man getting my history. Luckily, he was very good-natured about it.
January 4th, 2002. I was 17 years old, a senior in high school. I wore a gray shirt that used to belong to my dad in the 1970's. I watched a teacher's assistant, a tall, burly young man, pass out and slide gently from the reclining chair to the gym floor like a sack of laundry; he was embarrassed, I was discombobulated. I didn't mind the needles, but when my blood stopped flowing halfway through the unit, a young woman came over and (in my memory, at least) jammed the thick needle in and out of my arm again and again, resulting in a sharp and unexpected pain and, later on, an impressive bruise. It was an unfortunate situation, and one that deterred me from giving blood again for over a decade. I later learned that I have type O negative blood - the so-called universal donor - and still, I had no desire to give.
That's one layer of the story. If we dig down, we find more.
If we dig down, we find out that it's less about fear, and more about hate. If we dig, we find out that it's less about selfishness, and more about worthlessness.
So we dig.
When you hate yourself, you don't always know it. Not as such. There's no understanding of "hate;" only an understanding of things as they are.
(When you have spent enough time at the bottom of the sea, you forget what light is.)
Why on earth - why, I ask you - would anyone want any part of me? For all I know, my parts are poison, down to the very last drop. What if my darkness spreads? You tell me my components are valuable - I tell you they are tainted, toxic, too far gone, and I will not - I cannot - let them loose. To do so would be inhumane.
Why would anyone ever want any part of me?
I am starting to remember what light is.
I see it in the little things I do, the small jumps that amaze me: making calls on my own, grabbing a bite to eat in a new restaurant alone, saying hello to strangers. Making friends. Making a website. It's not much for some, but for me, it's huge, and I am grateful.
And so I find myself crammed into a broom closet-sized space, halfway atop a young man who is having a hard time taking my blood pressure. It's always hard. Eventually, though, we get it, and it's normal. My hematocrit is normal. My heart rate is anxious normal. Almost 40 minutes later, once I've been established as normal-ish, I am sent out into the bus to be harvested.
They try the left arm with no luck, but the right arm saves the day. I lay back, looking out the window as my blood flows out into the collection bag. The folks of the Bloodmobile chat and laugh amongst themselves, talking about the new guy, and I can't stop smiling. It doesn't take long for the bag to fill, and once it does, they clamp it off and bandage me up. I was the last one off the bus, clutching a pack of Oreos, less dizzy than anticipated, and giddy with happiness.
I gave. I wanted to give. It was important to me to give, because my parts are worth giving.