Sunday, September 7, 2014

Intentional Acts of Kindness

Not everyone is a candidate for living kidney donation but that doesn't mean you don't have the opportunity on a DAILY basis to help make someone's life easier or better. What follows is a list of fun activities that will bring a smile to the face of a stranger and yours too! I prefer to call them intentional rather than random acts of kindness. Random suggests maybe sometimes doing a good deed if you feel like it. An intentional act requires mindfulness and coming from a place of compassion and lovingkindness.

If you have other ideas feel free to add them in the comments or share you experience with intentional acts of kindness.

Text or tweet a compliment
Bring healthy treats to work to share
Put your phone away when a friend is talking
Add quarters to an expired meter
Send anonymous flowers
Make two lunches and give one away.
Leave change in a vending machine or washer at the laundromat
Donate blankets to the shelter
Reverse a negative conversation with something positive
Pick up litter on your walk
Donate school supplies to a teacher
Send dessert to another table
Tip over-generously
Adopt a friend at the nursing home
Leave a note that reads “you look amazing!” on a bathroom mirror
Smile at strangers and see how many you can get to smile back
Give a massage gift certificate to a stressed friend or coworker
Thank a teacher who had a positive impact on you
Bring a welcome gift or have lunch with a new neighbor/coworker
Leave a flower on a stranger’s windshield
Better yet—bomb the whole parking lot with flowers!
Leave random compliment notes
Pay for the person behind you in the drive-through
Sign up with Donate Life as an organ donor

Listen. Really listen...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lost in Transplantation Book Club Discussion Guide

 Book Club Discussion Guide for: Lost in Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor by Eldonna Edwards

1) Have you ever been the recipient of an unexpected gift? Were you able to accept that gift with grace? Did you pay it forward? Think about a time when you’ve done something nice for someone for no other reason than it felt like the right thing to do. How did it make you feel?
2) Have you ever reflected on your own life and felt a desire to make more of a difference? If so, what did you do? Did your efforts involve another human being, or a different sort of contribution? People often ask Ellie why she would give an organ to someone she didn’t know. What is your understanding of why she donated? Were you able to accept her motivation as truly altruistic?
3) Ellie is reimbursed for her medical and travel expenses but not for her lost wages. Do you think more donors would sign up if they were paid a stipend for their “pain and suffering?”  What are the ethical implications of paying donors for organs? What other incentives might drive people to donate?
4) Lucy refused Ellie’s offer to donate a kidney. Were you surprised by this?  Lucy’s choice brings up the issue of quality of life. If you were given the choice between near-daily medical treatments that kept you alive but in pain and uncomfortable, would you choose the treatment or would you prefer to just let nature take its course?
5) Ellie was raised in a strict, conservative evangelical home but refers to herself as “devoutly agnostic.” How much do you think Ellie’s upbringing influenced her altruism? Do you know anyone similar to Ellie? Do you think kindness and compassion are genetic traits or an attitude that is nurtured by family and community? Have you ever known anyone who seemed particularly sympathetic and kind? What effect did these qualities have on your life?
6) Kathy and Ellie end up becoming dear friends while waiting unsuccessfully for a paired match. How did you feel when Ellie decided to move forward with her donation in hopes of having surgery while she was young enough to recover more easily?  
7) The author shared her first kiss story and crossing over the crumbling road of her childhood.  Do you remember that moment for you? Was it a positive experience? What would you tell your younger self today if you could speak to them?
8) Before you read Lost in Transplantation were you aware of the tragic lack of organs for desperate patients? Do you know anyone who needs or has received an organ transplant? How would you feel if a friend, coworker, or family member asked you to be tested as a possible donor?
9) Ellie shares a lot of personal anecdotes about her childhood and adult life. Was there a favorite story or quote that stayed with you? Which one(s) and why did you relate to it?

10) Ellie was labeled the "free spirit" in her family? How would your family role be characterized? 
11) Ellie’s recipient turns out to be on the opposite end of her political and philosophical belief spectrum. She came to understand that this was a huge lesson in acceptance and giving with a warm hand. How do you think you would have responded to the outcome? How did you feel when you read about Mike? Were you happy for him?
12) As a single mother, Ellie is very close to her son. The only time she doubts her decision is after talking with Jacob on the phone right before surgery. How does their relationship compare to yours and your parents (or children)?
13) Is there anything you will view differently in your life after reading this book? Anything you will do differently?
14) The author’s next book is a coming-of-age novel. Will you seek out more works by this author? Why or why not?

Friday, April 4, 2014

If Not Me, Then Who?

When I first decided to donate a kidney I didn’t talk about it much because I felt uncomfortable when people would gush about what a great thing I was planning to do. If I needed time off for example, I’d just say it was for some general tests or that I was having elective surgery. But eventually I realized if I didn’t talk about it, how would I ever begin to challenge others to consider living donation? Now, instead of changing the subject I just thank people as graciously as possible and ask if they’ve signed up to be a donor on their driver’s licenses. If they say no, I refer them to Donate Life to register as an organ donor when they die. If they’re curious about living donation I send them to the National Kidney Registry or Living Kidney Donors Network.

If you’re considering the idea of becoming a living donor I encourage you to contact the nearest transplant facility and offer to be tested. The hospital will give you a good idea of what to expect as well as being able to make sure that you wouldn’t be compromising your own health. You can find a list of transplant centers and tons of information about the donation process at the above websites. Facebook also offers several forums where living donors answer questions from those interested in the process, including financial resources, emotional support, and post-op recovery.

Not only did I become more vocal about becoming a living donor, I offered to allow a documentary filmmaker to follow my journey, recording everything from driving lessons with my son, to doing massage, to filming the actual surgery.Sharing such an intimate part of my life was a surreal experience but director Jan Krawitz made it seem effortless and I often forgot her crew was even in the room.  Perfect Strangers is currently making the festival circuit and is now available for private or community screenings (contact me for more info).

Like many other mid-lifers on the verge of an empty nest, I’d decided to go back to school to reignite sluggish synapses and broaden my knowledge base. I don’t think any of us roll out of bed, slug back a cup of coffee, and suddenly decide this is the day we’re going to dangle our ordinary little life by its ankles. I never dreamed that meeting a particular student in a gender studies class would teach me more than I could ever hope to learn in a book or a lecture, or change my life in such a powerful way.

Organ donation might seem like a big deal to a lot of people but every day I come across others who are doing or have done things I could never do. People who’ve adopted a special needs child, for example. People who commit their lives to aiding homeless refugees or teaching impoverished folks in inner cities. Sometimes just getting up in the morning on those days you barely feel human and doing whatever it takes to feed the kids and get them off to school requires an act of valor. Heroism is merely love in action.

And in the end, love really is everything…