My daughter Amelia is about to turn 2, and she is such a delightful human being. She is at an age when she loves to see what Mama and Papa are doing, and she does her best to imitate. This includes baking, putting on deodorant, nursing babies (she nurses her doll), reading stories (again, she’ll read to her doll), and even exercising. All of this is taken up with wonder and exuberance.
This will tie in, in a moment.
From the first donation, I have been fascinated with the whole process of giving blood. Naturally, there are the very good, altruistic reasons for doing it – you can help save or improve the lives of those who are critically injured or ill. In fact, it is an almost completely altruistic act. The only thing one concretely gets from it is a snack and some juice. Less concretely may be a sense of moral superiority, but we’ll leave that aside for now.
The fascination has to do with actually giving away, in a real sense, a part of one’s very life. It is admittedly a modest part, and one that is not very sacrificial beyond giving up some time and a short list of activities (including heavy lifting) for the remainder of the day. The feeling of moral superiority may be too great a reward, but then it usually is.
And yet, giving blood is an act which seems to violate our survival instincts. We don’t usually succumb to needles plunging into our major veins, drawing out the substance that keeps our bodies alive. Blood-letting is only a step or two behind death.
In fact, I once tried to watch the nurse push the needle into my vein: It was like the physical manifestation of heresy. My brain – the very organism of my body – barely kept from fainting. My mind, I am careful to say, understood what was happening and consented; my body witnessed it and attempted a silent mutiny.
Again, modestly, I say that giving blood is a small death, like those of our Christian tradition. The Lord has shown us that we must continually die to ourselves, and I have found this to be an effective tactic every 8 weeks or so.
It is, I think, one of my favorite ways of imitating Christ. Like Amelia, my imitation cannot be confused with the real thing – she has never actually fed a baby, nor has she actually baked a cake. But she is imitating, and therefore she is learning the motions.
Giving blood is not the same as death by crucifixion, nor in my wildest imagination do I pretend that it is. (There is a writer’s temptation here to want to stomp the comparison into the ground – to fully articulate how far above my act is Christ’s. But I daresay it is unnecessary, both for me and for anyone reading). No, I am not being crucified, and I am not without sin; but, in a very small way, I am learning the motions. I am giving away a small portion of life, and doing it freely. I pray that doing so faithfully will help me reach spiritual adulthood.