Just the other day, more or less out of the blue, an acquaintance of mine (Nicolene), felt the need to subscribe me to a Facebook group dedicated to her friend Tyrone Charles, who is a terminally ill leukemia patient. Tyrone’s only realistic chance at surviving his cancer is to hope that the (slim) chance of finding a bone marrow donor – hence the purpose of the Facebook group and the spamming out of invitations by Nicolene to everyone she knows. The purpose of the group basically being to hit you square in the head with a plea to go and give the blood donation required to get you typed and on the register of bone marrow donors, hoping that you might be a match for Tyrone (and if not, that you might be able to save the life of another sufferer just like him who may be a match with you)
Now while I believe resolutely in the idea behind the whole get-tested-and-save-a-life thing, I found myself wanting to wish the whole challenge of what was being requested of me away. Which in turn made me stop and think about the whole issue and try to work out why I was having trouble just romping down to the clinic and getting tested. The best explanation I can come up with is that I am just plain scared of the whole idea – in much the same way that I am terrified of donating blood, getting a vaccination or anything else involving a needle. The problem here, is that (and I thought about this at some length) I could not come up with a single defensible reason for not getting tested, in light of the fact that it held the possibility of directly saving someone else’s life. While was scared of the idea of getting poked with the needle and losing blood (and that fear is a rather big and immediate issue), I just cannot rationalise it being more important than the possible benefit of what was being requested. No matter how you look at it, if I can save someone’s life, there really can be no compelling argument not to do what is being asked.
And so I did what Nicolene asked, and registered myself on the bone marrow donor network and got tested today. And it felt good.
The thing that interests me most though, is that there are doubtless people to whom that request will have been made who will not go and get registered and tested, and it fascinates me to know why they would choose to ignore such a request. It is one thing to say “nobody has ever asked me”, or “I never thought about it” or any similar oblique escape argument – but when someone asks you directly, and you are required to make a yes or no commitment, what possible rationale exists not to go and do your part? I want to know whether the people who don’t comply, and don’t at least try to see if they could save this life are able to simply ignore the issue and walk away (which seems remarkably shallow and self-obsessed, given the different point of view they would take if it were them in the hospital bed). Or do they have some sort of acceptable (to them) sort of internal reasoning which allows them to believe that they are not in fact being delinquent or callous not to respond to such a plea?
Putting the question to a friend of mine of “I am challenging you to go and do something that you know to be right or live with yourself for not doing so” resulted in her going to go and get tested and registered, which was an excellent ethical response (in my view), but a terrible case study in why people might say no. My ex had the more useful (if shocking) response of “perhaps it is just their time to die” – which is perhaps one argument that the non-complying part of the world may use to rationalise their selfishness. I don’t accept that as a decent reason not to do your bit, because I have absolutely no doubt that if the sick person was someone that you care about, your faith in the divine clock of life would dissolve into a mad rush to get tested faster than you can say hypocrite.
And so I have yet to find that compelling reason to say no. If you think you are hard enough – i’ll challenge you now to go and read the appeal and come back to me with a reason not to help which would be both acceptable to you if you were on the other end of the equation, and which you can sleep soundly at night knowing you believe. Because the thing is, once you are asked to do this (and i’m damn well asking you to read the appeal and help), you lose all ability to feign ignorance and avoid having to find that reason to say no. Because it doesn’t exist. And then you will realise that some things are more important to you than your fear of a needle.
So go on and be a hero. Or at the very least, do something that will let you sleep warm at night and enjoy the days of your life knowing you didn’t in your fear or laziness deny someone else that pleasure.