How Many Lives Do You Want To Save?

They’re all around me. Everyday they work on the floor above my office. They pass by my door. They stand next to me in the cafeteria line. Nurses, doctors, APNs, PAs, CNAs, Rad Techs, Nuc Med Techs, Lab Techs, EMTs, Paramedics, and dozens of others who provide clinical services that I don’t even know enough about to identify their titles. I rub shoulders every workday with lifesavers. It’s enough to give one a complex.

I’m not clinical. I find myself saying that quite often in my job as Marketing Director at our local hospital. Anytime I present information to a civic organization or a group visiting our facility, if I’m asked a question that requires a clinical answer, I have to admit that I’m unqualified to answer. That’s for the clinical people.

That’s for the lifesavers.

I wish I were a lifesaver. Well, part of me does. The part of me that doesn’t faint at the sight of blood, or become ill at the thought of a scalpel slicing through someone’s skin. I once came within seconds of passing out as I stood next to my seven-year-old son in the ER and watched a needle being inserted into a gash between his eyes that was about to be stitched up. “Someone grab the mama!” were the last words I remember until I was aware of a nurse holding a cold cloth to my face.

But recently a woman made me feel a lot less like a failure where life-saving is concerned. Her name is Zola, and she works at Mid-South Transplant Foundation in Memphis. Zola presented an educational program on becoming an organ donor. A donor, I learned, can save as many as eight lives and improve the lives of up to fifty more people. I sat a little straighter in my chair and held my head a little higher. I wasn’t such a failure after all. I’m an organ donor. That makes me a lifesaver.

The stories Zola shared about people on the transplant waiting list who never received the organ they needed were heart-wrenching. Twenty-two people die each day waiting for an organ. Another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every ten minutes. And so many people leave this earth without donating those life-giving organs.

I thought how sad it is that so many people go to the grave without using their life-saving capabilities, taking organs and tissues that won’t do them a bit of good and keeping them from others who so desperately need them. I don’t want to hoard life. I want to leave behind everything I can that might save or improve someone else’s life. Organ donor card signed… I’m good. I did my part. Now, I’m a life-saver, too.

But those heroes who work all around me everyday don’t have to wait until they die to save lives. They have the capacity to do it every single day. And they do it. Every. Single. Day. Feelings of failure creep in again. Then I get a call. It’s the American Red Cross. There is a critical blood shortage, and I’m asked to help. I’m called on to save a life.

Not just one life, but three. Yes, one pint of blood can save as many as three lives, and whole blood can be donated every 56 days. I haven’t been nearly that diligent, but I have donated more than three gallons of blood. That’s potentially 72 lives saved.

I’m a lifesaver.

Every 56 days I can save as many as three lives. If I gave plasma I could save lives every 28 days. Donating platelets allows me to be a lifesaver every seven days. That still leaves me outdone by the life-saving heroes that work all around me every day. I can’t match their skills. I can’t save lives every day. I do, however, have life-giving skills I can use every day.

The tongue has the power of life and death.  Proverbs 18:21, NIV

My words have the power to give life, and I almost hoarded them. I almost purposely withheld the gift of life because I was looking for the easy way out. I didn’t want to say anything negative or critical, so I considered not saying anything at all. At least for a few days, during those times away from my job when I had no choice but to speak, I considered fasting from speaking altogether. It would be easier to say nothing because I wouldn’t have to guard my words as I spoke them. If I didn’t speak at all, I wouldn’t risk saying anything hurtful or bitter. I wouldn’t have to think before I spoke, because I wouldn’t speak.

Would refusing to speak be as wrong as speaking negative words? I don’t know. I think it might be; and I think it may be a result of something else that needs to come out of my spiritual backpack. A couple of things, as a matter of fact.

Greed and Self-Interest.

I’ve just recently realized how often I hoard my capacity to speak life into someone because it’s easier to remain quiet. During the Word Challenge I’ve taken during the month of July, I’ve realized that I’m guilty of withholding life-giving words as often as I am guilty of speaking words that damage and wound. I hoard my words because I’m selfish. I don’t want to give up the time it would take to speak those words, and the time it will cost me to engage with the one I speak them to.

I’m greedy with my time, and I only want to serve myself. I need to ask God to remove my Greed and my Self-Seeking. My pleonexia and my eritheia.

My greed. My pleonexia. Strongs Greek concordance describes it as a feminine noun derived from two words: pleion (4119) meaning numerically more, and exo (2192) have. Properly — the desire for more (things); i.e., lusting for a greater number of temporal things that go beyond what God determines is eternally best (beyond His preferred will).

My self-interest. My eritheia. Strongs Greek concordance tells that it comes from the Greek word eritheuo, meaning “work for hire”. Properly, work done merely for hire (as a mercenary), referring to carnal ambition (selfish rivalry). It is described as: acting for one’s own gain, regardless of the discord (strife) it causes. Places self-interest ahead of what the Lord declares right, or what is good for others.

Forget the fact that those around me need life-giving words that I can give. I don’t want to take the time to give them. I want more of my own time for my own pleasures. More time for myself than I need. More time for myself than God wants me to have in light of what is eternally best for myself and for those around me.

Disregard the fact that the withholding of my life-giving words may cause discord and strife. Let me be a slave only to my own desires and place my self-interest ahead of the Lord’s will and what is good for others.

I’ll silently judge those who won’t donate their organs, and I’ll inwardly criticize those who refuse to take the time to donate blood; but, when it comes to withholding life-giving words from someone whose soul is parched or whose heart is broken, I’m just as guilty of hoarding life.

So, do I really want to save lives every day?

Kind words are like honey. They are sweet to the spirit and bring healing to the body.  Proverbs 16:24, NIRV

Thirty minutes to give a pint of blood. We can do that once every 58 days.

A couple of hours to donate platelets. We can do that once every 7 days.

Ten minutes to sign an organ donor form. We do it one time.

But, every day, in a matter of minutes, we can revive a life on the brink of who-knows-what. Time after time over the course of 24 hours we have the capacity to restore hope in the life of someone who is almost depleted of it. We have the ability to infuse encouragement into someone suffocating of discouragement. We walk among throngs of people who just need a few life-giving words.

Father, remove the impurities of greed and self-interest from the blood flowing through my veins so that I may be fit to give life to those in need. Let me not hoard what I can give. Let me speak life.

Let me save lives. Every day.

Note: This post is Part Three of My Big Fat Greek Word Search – a series about the removal of spiritual toxins, or an unpacking of my spiritual backpack.  To see previous posts, follow these links:

Part One – Traveling (not so) Light: Confessions of an Excessive Packer

Part Two – My Big Fat Greek Word Search: Unpacking One Word at a Time

Part Three – An Unrepentant Heart

Part Four – You’ve Reached Your Limit

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