Recently, I wrote about the Nicholas Effect that happened in 1994, after U.S. citizens, Reg and Maggie Green, donated their 7-year-old son, Nicholas' organs to save seven Italian lives, and forgave the men who had murdered their child.
So many people reported that just seeing the acts of compassion on TV had profoundly impacted their lives. That's the Nicholas Effect.
Thanks to readers in New Bern and Yuma, who sent Reg the column in California by way of Rome, we were able to connect and chat more about the grace that comes from organ donation. According to UNet, which was developed by the United Network for Organ Sharing, the largest registry of its kind, there are currently over 100,000 people in America waiting for an organ.
The average wait time for those at the top of the list is about two months, but the time grows the further down the list someone falls. Many people die waiting for a new organ, and many never make the list.
Most people who are eligible to donate their organs don't take the necessary steps to ensure that can happen. Checking the little box on your driver's license is not enough. A health directive or living will that clearly states your intentions with some, or all, of your viable organs is really necessary.
However, just referring to ourselves as potential remains gives most of us the willies, and we end up doing nothing. It's one thing to check a box while filling out an unrelated form, but to actually say, "sure, take it all," in a formal document is a bigger hurdle. It's why a lot of people haven't even taken out a will. It's like we can push death away, just a little, if we refuse to look at it.
Right in the middle of when I was being treated for cancer, the rector at St. John's Episcopal in Chicago, where I'm a member, was making a valiant effort to get everyone to fill out a form that would say exactly what they'd want in their funeral service. It was a unique and practical idea.
I couldn't get myself to do it, especially with the real possibility that it might be used sometime in the near future, so I ignored it altogether. However, facing something and dealing with it to the best of our abilities can not only relieve us of small bits of guilt or resentment, but can also open up the possibilities. We rarely gain something by holding on to what is no longer useful to us, and we can even inadvertently trap ourselves in the memories of a painful era.
Reg Green's newest book, "The Gift that Heals," chronicles the stories of families on both sides of the donation process and how the act of being able to give and receive changed everyone for the better. It's the Nicholas Effect at work again when out of something dark, goodness is able to prevail, and it always begins with someone who is able to literally give of themselves.
Like the story of Dereck Lopez, a beautiful 18-year-old girl, who was a U.S. citizen for two weeks before being killed by a drunk driver. Dereck was in school to become a kindergarten teacher and had spent her short life helping others. Her family wholeheartedly gave their approval knowing it's what Dereck would have wanted. The family was then able to make long-lasting connections with the people whose lives were saved, and her father, Jorge, was able to find some peace in a senseless accident. In some ways, Dereck's generosity saved his life as well.
There's an old saying, "The hose gets the water first," that means when we're of service to someone else, we receive the blessing first, because we're reminded of some basic truths that can get lost underneath tragedies or even just busy schedules.
There is also something to be lost when we decide to keep everything for ourselves, because we can't see how there's enough in the deal for us, or we can't accept that things have changed forever. Sometimes, you just give because it's the right thing to do, and then the rest unfolds.
That's when the cynicism and fear fall away and can be replaced by the idea that more is possible in our lives, if we're willing to go toward it. That's what we receive in return, and it's worth more than anything we could have cooked up on our own.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.