I walked in yesterday on what seemed to be a rather emotionally charged conversation on the phone between my assistant and who I assumed was a friend and I immediately closed the door to the office and gave her some privacy. "Anna Marie, no," she called out, trying to summon me back into the office but I made my way to our make-shift cafeteria that could fit approximately two malnourished adults and waited. She followed me and explained that it was her mother on the phone. A friend was dying. His situation seemed hopeless. He needed a kidney.
"He can't find anyone to give him one," she said, clearly concerned. Then she went on to explain that he did not want a kidney from his children or his nephews and nieces and his wife and siblings were far too unhealthy to be donors. "He won't do dialysis. He'd rather die."
We continued to talk about the situation, the pro's and con's. Pro's that a kidney could extend his life another 20 years. Con's that his blood type was rare and a match was virtually impossible.
"And really, he can't find anyone in his family that could give him a kidney."
We reflected on this horrid, horrid situation then asked each other honestly if we would be willing to volunteer a kidney to a family member? It's a very painful procedure and you, as a donor, would have to take medications for the rest of your life.
"I'd do it for my Dad," she said. "If he were still alive and he needed one, I would do it in a heartbeat."
Forever the psychosomatic, I immediately put myself in the shoes of the ill. "No one would give me a kidney, I don't think."
My assistant laughed, as my staff often do when I make random comments. "Your husband would!"
Yes, he would, I mused. But I really didn't think anyone else would. I combed through the closest people in my life and thought about the sacrifice a kidney would take and the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that placed in the same awful situation I would probably be left spending everyday on my knees making amends with my Maker to secure a spot in heaven.
"He should just go to Europe or something and make the best of his last days, " I said. "I know that's what I would do." And then I pictured myself becoming very ill in the middle of Paris, dying somewhere in the Louvre, unable to say goodbye to everyone I loved. I would be buried in France without a tombstone. Maybe staying local would be the safer move.
I thought about a handful people I knew. People who would probably get a line of donors should they find themselves in such a terrible state. What made them so special? What made everyone just absolutely and positively love them enough to do whatever it would take to keep them around?
Later that day, while on the BQE, where my deepest thoughts often take place, I thought about the Virtuous Woman. Would Sarah have gotten a kidney immediately? Not from Hagar, of course not, but I wondered if she were surrounded by people who would fight each other over that sacrifice. Yes, she clearly was surrounded by admirers and a husband who adored her, but did she have a circle of family and friends who would do whatever it would take to keep her around?
That's the problem with strength, I thought to myself. You get too strong to need anyone's help. And even if you did need it, you would be too proud to ask. Ah, the problem again with vulnerability!
I remember crying at 18 and a family member walked in on me, stood, and watched me cry. Then he closed the door and I heard him chuckle, "How the mighty has fallen!" My God, it's been that long. I've had such a reputation for so long!
Who gives a kidney to the mighty?
It's this balance between strength and vulnerability that I find most challenging. And I keep wondering, did the Woman of Virtue have a soft side? Did she ever seem to others in need of anything? Surely she wasn't a complaining, bemoaning drama queen who wallowed in self pity but my Lord, was she ever vulnerable enough to need someone in order to stand on her own two feet even for just a moment?
I opened my wallet to locate a phone number this afternoon after pulling in my driveway and noticed a heart on my driver's license. I'm a donor. I giggled at the irony. I had forgotten about that. Someday my heart may beat for someone else, my pancreas may save a diabetic little boy, and my kidneys...my kidneys may add another 20 years to a dying man.
That's it, I thought. You can't spend your days reflecting on what can be done for you. You must always be in the state of readiness to do for someone else. And should the moment come when you find yourself in an unfortunate, hopeless bind, help will come to you perhaps in more ways than you could have ever imagined. Mighty or not, someone will step up to the plate. It's the law of nature, I suppose. Virtue begets virtue.
And the very fact that I can't seem to imagine a line of people offering their kidneys tells me that I have a long way to go to be that Virtuous Woman. Because strength and accomplishment and bravery alone could not have made her virtuous. Goodness, kindness, mercy and meekness are all characteristics of virtue. And if you have all of that, very few around you would hesitate to hand you their kidney in a heartbeat.
I need to get to that place.