Humor by John Christmann

The Giving Test

hands holding a kidney with a bow

Last week my friend Dana gave a kidney to someone in need.

They actually refer to the selfless act of sacrificing an organ for the sake of others as a donation. He correctly donated a kidney. Maybe this means he can write off his kidney at the end of the year for tax purposes.

And here I am wracking my brain trying to come up with gift ideas for my close friends and loved ones this holiday season. Given my lack of gift imagination, electronics and clothing that can easily be exchanged are about the only things that ever come to mind.

If you believe television commercials, some people actually give cars for Christmas. It is certainly well beyond my reach to park a brand new Lexus topped with a big red bow outside someone’s front door.

But I can dream about it. And my kids can vainly wish for a brand new Lexus all they want. Better yet, two.

And one Christmas several years ago I gave my kids a musical electronic keyboard. Even as bad jokes go, this still doesn’t qualify me as an organ donor.

The point is, it would never even occur to me to give someone one of my kidneys for Christmas. I mean it’s not like a kidney comes with a gift receipt for exchange. It would be kind of awkward standing around a large open box surrounded by bows and ripped wrapping paper nervously anticipating the response of the recipient.

Do you like it? Actually, it is much more than a travel cooler. Go ahead and open it up. I hope it fits! Is the color OK? There weren’t many options and I thought burgundy would look good inside you . . . Etc.

Of course no one likes to give a gift that is clearly not needed or desired. In particular I am thinking here of neckties and sweaters. And I would imagine this applies to kidneys as well.

But in my friend’s case, he knew someone who desperately needed a kidney. The recipient has something called Polycystic Kidney Disease, a genetic condition in which destructive cysts form in the kidneys. It also has an acronym, PKD, which means that the disease is documented, understood, and unfortunately, incurable.

One kidney was gone and the other was quickly on its way to failure. Without a secret Santa, the outcome for the recipient was dire.

Once for Christmas I received the same book from two different people. I really didn’t need both books, so I later gave one away to someone who I knew would appreciate it. It was hardly a selfless act of kindness.

I have two kidneys too. I really don’t need both of them, but somewhere between giving a superfluous book and giving a superfluous kidney my generosity breaks down. Somewhere I enter the gray area of selfishness.

I have no doubts I would give up a kidney for an immediate family member. But as my emotional circle widens, my limited well of selflessness would be severely tested. To contemplate the extent to which I am willing to help others in the harsh light of someone who has just given up a kidney is pretty sobering.

Remember, I am still agonizing over giving electronics and clothing.

My friend Dana thought through his decision carefully. The acquaintance in need was his girl friend’s mother. Not even a family member. He understood the risks, both physically and emotionally. He underwent extensive physical and psychological tests to ensure as a kidney donor he was a match.

And with plenty of time for deliberation and plenty of people close to him willing and able to talk him out of it, he came to the conclusion that removing a healthy organ from his body and giving it to someone who was not so healthy was just something he had to do.

I feel pretty paltry shopping online for electronics and clothing for the people I know and love. I didn’t even shop for my wife’s mother when she was alive. My wife did that.

Would I have given my mother-in-law one of my kidneys if she needed it?

Maybe, but l prefer not to go there.

My best friend? I like to think so. But because he is my best friend he might not want it. He knows my past and rejection could be significant.

So as a holiday ostrich Grinch I am burying my head in the snow over this one. It doesn’t make me feel good about myself. But it does make me feel good about my friend Dana and others like him.

There are people in the world who will stop at nothing to help others.

God bless them, everyone.