Thoughts Along the Path . . .

 

Last week John and I donated blood in Cambridge. Normally we would do this here in Ayr, but with North Dumfries Community Complex closed, other venues are being used.

By way of background, I should mention that I’ve been donating blood since my university days in the 60s. Back then, some locales especially encouraged students to donate, and I was willing to give it a try.

That’s when I learned that it didn’t hurt physically. More importantly, I felt happy as I imagined someone-somewhere receiving my blood. I also learned that not everyone can give blood because of current or long-term health issues, recent travel history, or personal habits involving certain high-risk activities.

Over the years and in various towns and countries where I have lived, the guidelines have sometimes differed and protocols for safety and efficiency have evolved. But what has never changed is the feeling of being helpful and feeling kinship with other donors.

In addition to the need to go to Cambridge rather than here in Ayr, I knew to expect changes. The first two of these: New questions within the online prequalification questionnaire and a requirement to wear a mask.

Arriving at the location in Cambridge, I found myself in a building other than my own home for the first time in two months (the only exception being a few steps inside the doorway at Lucio’s for bakery items). I stood on a red X to observe distancing; I wore a mask even while replying to questions by intake personnel; and a nurse signed the form on my behalf rather than giving me a pen to hold.

The room had fewer than usual donor stations set-up to maintain physical distance, though sadly they were not filled to capacity. The nurses, normally chatty to keep themselves and donors amused, were more restrained in their conversation. The refreshment area, previously a hubbub of chit-chat and even laughter, had been replaced by a couple of chairs placed 2 metres apart, with volunteers setting aside a drink and salty snack for takeaway after donors sat for the required 5 minutes.

So there I was, a needle in my arm, squeezing a ball covered by disposable paper, reflecting on it all. A wave of sadness overcame me as I considered the reason for all of these changes and the hardship countless people around the world are facing. As I sensed my eyes getting tearful, I realized I couldn’t let that happen or my nose might start running, too. If they noticed that happening, they might think I’m sick and not accept my blood.

I put my sadness aside as I looked around the room and felt grateful that people were continuing to participate in blood donations. So many of us wonder “how can I help?” and that hour showed me many people doing exactly that. I thought about health and social service systems continuing to operate on our behalf, and I thought about people around the world giving blood. The more I reflected on this, the happier I felt.

Giving blood brought joy to me that day, and joy inspires me to keep going. In the words of Abdul-Baha: “Joy gives us wings.” Wow – wings! What about you? Where do you want to fly to, even if just metaphorically? What will you do there to make a difference, to share joy with others?

I do hope all of you are staying safe, feeling hopeful for the future, and expressing gratitude through your own deeds and through mutual support with others.

 

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Submitted to Ayr News by Jaellayna Palmer, May 2020

© Jaellayna Palmer 2020