I was the first to show up at today’s blood drive in my home town of Shelburne Falls. I sat patiently by the intake table checking my Twitter and Facebook feeds (and those of the school) on my phone as they finished getting everything ready to go. Ten or 15 minutes later, I was lying on a table listening as the donation specialist sang along to Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” which was playing on the radio. I waited for the right moment to tell her that I taught Rock Band in my school, and the kids had chosen to do that song twice over the years, and she told me about her husband, “a real singer” in a metal band who was planning to participate in a benefit concert for suicide awareness this September. Moments later, “Titanium” came on the radio, and again we bonded as I told her about the time the middle school band was scheduled to do the song in a Winter Solstice Performance - and then Sandy Hook happened. We had to postpone that performance as everyone was just too raw and upset, but when the kids worked with my colleague Greg Snedeker and me to ready “Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber for performance with just one rehearsal, we pulled off what my colleague Karen Suchenski called “a Christmas miracle.” (see "Resolution" if you want to read more about this.)
As I always do at blood drives, I thought back to my first-ever donation, brought about nearly 30 years ago by Stoneleigh-Burnham students. I thought about my cousin and how giving blood (more often than not platelet donation) was one of the dearest causes of his life and one of the bonds between us.
And this time, for the first time, I thought back to the most recent Spearth Day and the first-ever blood drive held at our school. Listening to the housemeeting announcements, getting people signed up, feeling the excitement when we learned the Red Cross was giving us the go-ahead, and, what will probably be the most enduring image for me, watching one of the six-year kids tightly gripping the right hand of another as she lay on the table with a needle in her left arm.
Twenty-nine years ago, Susan looking down at me on my own donation table with a wicked grin wondering if I was maybe feeling a little woozy. Time and again, my cousin Gene smiling warmly across at me at family gatherings or from Facebook posts from relative donating in his memory. And now, Sophie's hand giving strength to Annalie who, through her donation, was in turn giving strength to still others. These are the images that will float through my mind every time I give blood in the future.
Or when I just think of kindness in this world.
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