Two weeks NZ BLOOD contacted me about their impending visit to Whangarei and asking me to once again come and donate blood. I have been donating blood now for many years, sometimes more regularly than others, depending on where I am living or where I have been travelling.
I always find something deeply re-assuring about living in New Zealand when I give blood. Like other people I have read horror stories about poor people being railroaded into donating organs for organ replacement surgery for wealthy people. I know too in many countries that people are paid for their blood. That is certainly not the case here although I understand that people in provincial towns are more generous when it comes to giving blood than their big city sisters and brothers.
Here in Whangarei donors seem to be many. It is both amazing and gratifying when I go into Forum North to see how many people are there–old and young, Maori and Pakeha, black-suited professional types, tradesmen who looks as though they have just rushed in from a building site, mothers–people from all walks of life are there. Furthermore everyone is friendly and happy to pass the time of the day with others. Once the actual giving process is over, older women are there to ensure we have plenty to eat and drink before heading off. It is a wonderful experience of being part of a caring community.
I always find something deeply religious about donating blood. I remember being amazed when one of the medical staff said that the blood that I gave, just under half a litre, would be used in about two weeks. This is perhaps because it is the common garden variety, not any special kind of “blue blood”!!
As I sit or lie there while my blood flows and look at others doing the same thing I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Mark's gospel: “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many”. I am surrounded by people who unconsciously or consciously are being faithful to Jesus' command: “Do this in memory of me”. These are people who care about others and are willing to sacrifice something of themselves for others.
In his 1974 work, Hymn to the Universe, French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin wrote of our need “to make the whole world Eucharist”. I think that blood donors are those who intuitively are Eucharistic people, not in a church building, but in their everyday lives by pouring out their blood for others.
“This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24)