Sunday, February 28, 2016

NPR, Lent and Kidneys

From Luke 3:11 - "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none . . ."
. . . and be thankful all you are being asked to give up is a coat.

There's nothing like a National Public Radio pledge drive during Lent. This is the season when you want to just wallow in misery and BAM!, NPR is there to help. They are like, "Well, we were going to give you the news right now but . . . NAH." Or "Calm soothing music anyone? I DON'T THINK SO!" It is an equally miserable time for those who have given and for those who have not. From Matthew 5:45 -  [your heavenly Father] "sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Et tu, NPR?

So the guys at Freakonomics, on NYC public radio, decided to approach pledge drive season a little differently. They asked their listeners to tell them how their lives were different because of their show. You can listen to the podcast here. There are lots of little ways mentioned but the most interesting is that a listener actually donated his kidney to a stranger because of a previous episode on the subject. (I certainly hope he got a coffee mug or fashionable tote bag as a thank you gift.)

But all this whining aside, the spiritual possibilities here are fascinating. People are normally born with two kidneys and, if all goes well, only end up needing one. The podcast listener who donated the kidney talked about his "wholly redundant" organ. What if what we really have is a "holy redundant" organ. An organ filled with spiritual possibilities!

I actually have a friend, who lives far away from me, who is really suffering for need of a kidney. His wife was all set to donate hers to him but she turned out to not be a match.

On Freakonomics they have been talking about starting a kidney donation chain. The donator on the podcast, after lots of screening and preparation, donated his kidney to a stranger that he was a match for. The recipient's father, who was not a kidney match for his daughter, then donated a kidney for someone he was a match for, and so on. On the podcast they say you can get up to 43 pass-it-ons from a person's kidney gift in a best case scenario. (I don't understand that number yet, I need to study more.) The donator didn't get 43 kidneys passed on for his one donation but he did get 3. So his one act of charity cured three strangers from a miserable health condition.

I think this is fascinating.

You should know about me that I am neither a blood donator nor an organ donor. Some friends were teasing me about the latter. However, if you give a kidney while you are alive you can make a leisurely decision about if and when. With organ donation, some stranger makes those decision for you, possibly in the middle of a crisis.

Consider the saints. Many chose ascetic lifestyles that involved self-inflicted pain. Why would they do this? Why do we fast? Some of the same reasons. First, there is just the matter of proving to yourself and to your passions who is in control. And there is an element of practice in there. You can practice telling your body "no" on little things to help prepare you to tell your body "no" on big things, should the need arise.

There is the unity with Christ that comes from sharing in his sufferings. Honestly, unity with Christ as experienced by many or all of these ascetic saints sounds like it is a rich return for one's sufferings.

And then suffering, when offered to Christ is just sheer power. Power to make the sufferer holy. Power to make prayers for friends and loved ones more powerful. Power to, in some degree, help save the world. What's not to like!? HA.

If you are seeking suffering, here is a perfect way to do it. Besides all the intangible spiritual benefits, you know that you have directly, physically touched, maybe SAVED, some people's lives in this world.

Kidney donation is a pretty recent development. Would any of the last few thousand years of saints have donated kidneys if they had had the option? In 500 years will the stories of saints from this age include this ascetic act of charity?

Being the huge chicken that I am about needles, I wonder if I would be capable of doing this. Could I do it as a gift of love? What would it feel like to offer such a gift for a specific person as a deliberate act of love in action? If I faced the scalpel focused on my love for that person or another person, would that make the needles more bearable?

And then there are all the people who "face the scalpel" as I put it, and worse, every day involuntarily for a zillion reasons. And I am not getting any younger - my time will come for medical misery soon enough.

I ask myself, "What's the THEREFORE?" Hey, it's Lent!  Maybe I should at least donate some blood. There's nothing on the radio this week anyway.

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