I’d like to say that I finally overcame my lifelong fear of donating blood, but that wouldn’t quite be true. The truth is, I volunteered to write an article about the American Red Cross for a local magazine. I could have chosen a simple approach, such as the history of the Red Cross, but I knew deep down that it would promote a worthy cause if I, gulp, wrote a first-person article about giving blood. I never dreamed that I would meet Jesus at the blood drive that day.
It happened to be 9/11/09, Patriot Day, as it’s now called, a day when Americans are encouraged to do something sacrificial. I hadn’t thought of that when I decided to make my way to the blood drive, but I liked the idea of being part of something that honored the nearly 3,000 people who had died that day in the World Trade Center eight years earlier.
The blood drive was busy that day, so in the hour that I waited, I talked to other potential donors about their experiences giving blood and why they did it. One 20-something woman, with piercings and tattoos, told me she donated blood to honor her dear grandmother, a loyal Red Cross volunteer, who had recently passed away. I saw Jesus in the love and honor that this young person was bestowing on her grandma’s memory.
I chatted with a middle-aged mother, and found that she had nearly died in childbirth many years ago. Had it not been for four units of blood, she wouldn’t have been talking to me. I saw Jesus looking out for her through the simple sacrifice of a blood donor, and I saw Jesus in her, looking out for the future recipient of her donated blood.
As I was giving my pint of blood, Jesus ministered to me through the loving care shown by the Red Cross nursing staff. Through their experience and expertise, he soothed my discomfort and his peace filled my heart and calmed any fears.
Story after story affirmed the presence of Jesus in this simple group of local people doing something good for their community. Almost all the folks I talked to acted as if giving blood were no big deal. They weren’t looking for praise or even a pat on the back. To me, it was evidence of the Holy Spirit moving each of us to do something small so that synergistically we could do something big.
The ancient Christian hymn by St. Patrick, known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” is a good reminder of how Christ ministers to us and through us, even in the most unlikely places:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
On my way out the door, the local coordinator of the blood drive reminded me that by giving a pint of blood that day, I had saved three lives. I thought about that for a while, and concluded that Jesus’ blood is the real life-saver. He conquered sin and death once and for all at Calvary, and today he works through each of us, inviting us to participate in our small way as he ministers to the vast sea of humanity he calls his brothers and sisters.
Whether it takes the form of rescuing others from a collapsing building, a kind word to a harried checkout clerk, or a simple donation of a pint of blood, Jesus is at work in every act, big and small, of courage, concern and care in every corner of our darkened world.
Author: Nan Kuhlman