I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing, I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.
—BROTHERHOOD by Octavio Paz
This is exactly how I felt every night while walking my old black lab in the stunning moonlight. I'd let a few tears escape, look up at the stars, and plead for some kind of answer as to what I am here in this life to do. There had to be more! I knew I desperately wanted to help people, to do Tikkun Olam every chance I got, but how? Where to begin? The suffering of the entire world is so overwhelming; it can cause a person with the best of intentions to freeze up in confusion and helplessness. The stars never answered, and the dissatisfaction of my selfish existence sat like a boulder in my chest.
In June 2009, I attended Mitzvah Day at my temple, Temple Ner Tamid, in Las Vegas. I donated blood then went over to the room where I could swab my cheeks and join the bone marrow registry through Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. I had always wanted to do this but could not afford the fee for a kit. I was the last one to come in; the volunteer was packing everything up. However, I was still able to register, and after a few simple swabs of my cheek, I was done. Time passed, and it faded into my memory. I'm not sure I ever believed I'd be lucky enough to receive the call that I was a match for someone in need, but I did! It was just over a year later, in May 2010, when I got a phone call from Gift of Life informing me that I was a match for a 44-year-old woman with leukemia.
I wasted little time in making my decision to go through with donating. Nothing in life gives guarantees, but I knew I just had to do it, no matter what. I could only imagine what it must feel like to be in that position—trusting your life in the hands of another, all the pain, sickness, and worry in payment for a glimmer of hope. I'd want the same thing, just one chance. Even when the injections of Neupogen stung or caused my body to hurt, what was that in comparison to what my recipient was going through? Nothing. I never complained. I was joyful for this new mission. All of my friends and family from all over the world prayed for my recipient and for me. We were all on this journey together, a path that could only be made possible through the remarkable progress of science.
All the celebratory stars were in alignment when I donated PBSC. I traveled across the U.S. with a backpack and absolute peace in my heart. It was the easiest thing I have ever done, and I certainly don't feel like a hero after having only lain in a bed and watched T.V for five hours while my stem cells were drawn out, separated, and the blood returned through my arms. I would do it again and again.
Now here it is, 2011. I received updates on my recipient, every one filled with fantastic news. I think about her daily, especially on my night walks! Now I can smile back to the stars and thank them for hearing my request. They understood just what I needed. The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, its workers, events, and founder are all a blessing in my life. I am changed. I want to repay the blessings.
Every minute, we get a chance to be a hero. A smile to a stranger, paying for someone's lunch, donating stem cells: it's all the same. It's all a choice. It's all goodness. All you have to do is ask the stars and show up for duty.