Tuesday, December 2, 2008

People always seem to be more generous around the holidays.

Maybe it's because we are in the "giving spirit," maybe we tend to be more thankful for what we have and think others should have it, too... or maybe it's just because we want to get in our donations so we can write them off on our 2008 tax returns.

Whatever the reason, it's never a bad reason to give.

This year, it's likely that charities may not see the same generosity as usual. The economy is in the crapper, and the truth is that many families are stretching their money just to make ends meet.

With that said, if you can afford to, you should think about making your donations. If you've never given before, you should research a cause that means something to you, and concentrate your efforts there. Everyone needs help, and there are so many organizations worthy of your dollar.

If you can't afford to give monetarily, try to be a little creative. What can you give?

Maybe it's your time. Become a volunteer.

Maybe it's your talent or your resources. Make an in-kind donation.

Maybe it's your blood.

Yes, I said blood. This morning, I donated mine. I've done it countless times now, and it's something I think is really important to do. In fact, I wish more people would do it. Did you know that approximately 60% of the population is eligible to donate blood, but less than 5% actually do?

If you've never done it because you're afraid of needles, I hope you'll reconsider.

I used to be deathly afraid of needles. I first signed up to try to donate blood in high school, but I ultimately got denied because I nearly had a panic attack and my blood pressure skyrocketed so high that they had to reject me.

Sadly, I didn't try again until I was 22 years old. I didn't try again until I felt like I had a reason to try again.

In the summer of 2004, I started reading Jenny Scott's blog. I've talked about it before. That year, Jenny's baby daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, and she chronicled the day-to-day life with Allie as she battled the disease. From the time of her diagnosis up until Allie died in September 2004 at only 9 months of age, she received something like *85* blood transfusions. Because of blood donors, Jenny got to hold onto her baby girl just a little bit longer. And in a time when every moment counted, I know that Jenny was appreciative of those anonymous blood donors. In fact, she still is. (As a side note, Allie was also the reason I put myself on the National Bone Marrow Registry.)

So here's the thing. It was December 17, 2004--what would have been Allie's 1st birthday. I don't know Jenny, and I didn't know Allie. I don't live anywhere near Texas. But the Red Cross was holding a blood drive in the building in which I worked. I figured--if that little baby could go through leukemia, chemotherapy, needle pokes and prods, and still have a smile on her face--I could handle a needle in my arm.

It was on that day that I became a blood donor.

Four years later, I'm still donating whenever I can. I'm lucky that the "blood mobile" makes trips to my workplace approximately every two months, so donating is convenient. But I have also made appointments at my local American Red Cross location and gone in on my own time, too. The whole process takes about an hour, but the blood donation part is 10-20 minutes. You will walk out knowing that you did something good for somebody. You likely helped save a life.

I'm not going to lie. I still get apprehensive every time I lie down on that cot. I have never looked at the needle. I don't enjoy the experience, and in fact, I've had some bad ones (it's bound to happen with how many times I've given). But the fact of the matter is, even with the bad experiences, it's still not that bad. I've always gone back again, which I think says a lot.

So, again, if the needle stick is your issue... get over it! From one wimp to another--I know you can do it. I survived (and survived, and survived...), and you will, too.

(Yes, I'm well aware of what a huge nerd I am.)

This holiday season, I'm going to try to find ways to give to others. I'll be sure to share with all of you. And I challenge you to do the same.

Be thankful for what you have, and give back. Pay it forward.

(Oh, and please come back and tell me how you did it!)


Vanessa December 2, 2008 at 4:38 PM  

Hi Heather, I am so enjoying following your blog from the other side of the world - its part of _my_ morning routine! Funny, I just posted on my own blog about giving back, doing something good. Something about this time of the year and what's going on in the world.
I hate needles but you have inspired me to give blood - it is so important, you're right. Thanks for the blog - keep writing! :)

Andrea December 2, 2008 at 6:50 PM  

Thank you for posting this. I work for a non-profit blood center (the Red Cross doesn't serve our area) and right now is such an IMPORTANT time to donate blood. With the holidays coming up many areas of the country will be facing critical shortages, so even though people are so busy with the holidays, it's still important to donate.

We never know when we, or someone we love, may need blood. :)

jennrs December 2, 2008 at 7:34 PM  

You rock, Heather. I'm officially inspired to donate some blood. The cookie afterwards ain't a bad incentive, either. ;-)

As an individual who works for a non-profit I greatly appreciate this post. Even if you don't have money to give you can donate your time by volunteering this holiday season.

Heather December 2, 2008 at 7:53 PM  

So true, Jenn. I did get to feast on a mini pack of Oreos afterwards. Totally guilt free. ;)

Linda December 2, 2008 at 8:17 PM  

My work brings the mobile donation bus every 3 months, so I donate every time. It's so easy. It only takes 15 minutes. And it doesn't cost you a thing.

Michelle December 2, 2008 at 8:40 PM  

I am donating used coats to the Coats for Kids drive in my city this year. I also dropped off 3 bags of clothes and shoes to the Goodwill and plan to make some donations to other organizations this holiday season.

My work is encouraging our students to write letters to the troops and hope to collect 10,000 in the next two months. It is a small thing to do, but I plan on making my letter as special as I can.

Kristin December 3, 2008 at 8:27 AM  

Thanks for the great post. My dad had a bone marrow transplant when I was younger, and because of that experience, I have donated as often as I can since I was 18. I see it as a civic duty, just like voting! And yes, I've had a bad experience or two (they poked me 4 times on Wednesday before they found a good vein) but it is worth it in the end. This year I am 'adopting' two children through X-mas Angels and buying them presents so they can have a happy holiday. Love your blog!

Lindsey December 3, 2008 at 9:22 AM  

Great post! I have been slacking on my blood donating, the college I work at does it twice a year, and I have missed out the past few times.

As someone who works in the fundraising office of a small private college, ANY donation is always extremely appreciated! AND, if you or your spouse works for a company that will match your donations, there is no excuse not to get it matched! My husband and I are compiling ours, and his company will match dollar for dollar, so it doubles what we give to each organization, which is fabulous!

Danielle,  December 3, 2008 at 9:49 AM  

I am getting married, so i frequient the knot. I saw your name and since i got engaged on june 7th, I have read your blog. I am a middle school cheerleading coach, and where i work gives a lot of chances to give back to your community. Well I had my parents donate to stockings for the troops and we made 20 stockings. This time a year we do operation santa where you take a kid that isn't fortunate enough for their parents to buy them something so other people can. I took 5 kids with my middle school team that way every kid will get some nice stuff for christmas. I always donate my old clothes to good will, I gave my old teaching stuff to a non-profit preschool, and i donate blood every 2 months when they come by.

Kim,  December 5, 2008 at 10:13 AM  

Heather, I had the exact same experience the first time I went to give blood (actually on my 17th birthday...the first day I was eligible!). My blood pressure skyrocketed, they turned me down, gave me a sticker that said "I TRIED To Give Blood", and sent me away with instructions to go to the doctor ASAP and make sure there wasn't something horribly wrong with my blood pressure. Sadly that experience has scared me away since then...I'll try to take your story as inspiration and maybe it won't be so bad next time. :o)

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