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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dominos and Do-Gooders

There were two things said to me this week in regards to my desire to donate a kidney that really made me pause-in two very different ways that in the end are connected.

The first was a comment left on here by my birthmom Judy.  She said "it also again caused me to wonder at how the world turns: decisions are made, lives are changed and because of that other lives are changed and so on... providential I think". It made me wonder if there is some kind of greater plan or, in other words if indeed everything does happen for a reason. Small events and decisions lead to other small events and decisions in a seemingly linear fashion. I'm not one to believe on a daily basis that everything I, or people around me do leads to something else which in the end leads to something greater. But I do have to wonder-had I not been adopted by the family I did, experiencing the childhood I did (reading personal interest stories about organ donation at a young age-ha!) as well as the illness and death of my Dad (etc) would I be here now contemplating organ donation? Maybe. But maybe not. Is there such a thing as providence or at the very least the "domino effect"?

The second comment was made by someone else who said "I am inundated with do-gooders telling me how they run their lives and how I should run mine. If you want to do a selfless act, then do it, but don't expect me to care, because then its no longer selfless". My initial reaction to this was great sadness as well as anger. The comment upset me more because of who it came from and the level of support I expected from them. But that aside, they had a point.  I too, am bothered by the "do-gooders".  Not all but most.  They get on their soapboxes, they want you to join their cause and they try to save the world.  Bleck.  Sure it's noble and often the right thing to do-but I think we'd be lying if we said there hasn't been some point in our lives where we've loathed a do-gooder or at least eyed them with a healthy dose of cynicism. I have never thought of myself as a do-gooder and it's not a label I want to wear. So why do we hate the do-gooder? 

A recent series of studies found that those who volunteer to take on unwanted tasks or give gifts/aid without being prompted, quickly alienate themselves. Psychologists believe this is because it makes the rest of us feel guilty and puts pressure on us to behave in an equally selfless fashion. Researchers say do-gooders come to be resented because they 'raise the bar' for what is expected of everyone. They even went as far as to suggest that people might want to think twice before talking about their charity work or volunteering to help out in front of others. The study showed that it doesn't matter that the overall welfare of the group is better served by someones unselfish behaviour. What is objectively good, we see as subjectively bad.

I know that not wanting to be seen as a "do-gooder" is one of the things that initially made me not want to share my story in the first place. I didn't want to be compared to those people who are always trying to generate social awareness, raise money or get their friends to sign petitions. I didn't want to be seen as someone "seeking attention" looking for a pat on the back or rah rahs from other do gooders. The very thought makes me cringe.

But yet here I am. 

Why?  Well in reflecting on both of these comments this week, I realized that sometimes (not all the time) things do happen for a reason, because of things bigger than you. And I think you know when you are in the middle of one of those "chains" or domino effects when a bunch of small events lead you to doing something that isn't the "norm" for you or even is contrary to what you would normally do (ie: my being a loud and proud "do-gooder").

I was reading a story today about Harold who was a pioneer in altruistic kidney donation in 2000.  In his post he shared his domino effect and how a number of events "bumped" into him, eventually leading to his kidney donation. 
  • He too lost his father to cancer and wished he could have done something to help. 
  • Giving blood since high school bumped him into platelet donations.
  • He saw a news feature on a teacher who donated to her student.  
  • Donating platelets bumped into signing up as a potential marrow donor after he met a couple at a mall desperate to find a marrow donor for their daughter (he was not a match).
  • Signing up for the marrow program bumped into a movie about kidney donation on a plane and the movie bumped him into the National Kidney Foundation.
  • That bumped him into the transplant program, leading to a successful kidney transplant. 
A series of seemingly unrelated small events ultimately took him to a place where he was able to save someones life. He said "I wake up everyday and know I did a good thing. And I’ll be happy to tell as many people about it as will listen. Because my domino might bump into someone else’s domino. And one of them might raise their hand and ask the questions that I asked. And one of them just might make a difference".

I'm still not keen on being a do-gooder.  But if it somehow leads to a domino effect with a better life outcome for someone-well that I can live with.  

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