21 Lives

During a busy time at work today, my cell phone rang.  I answered without thinking, then looked at the number and saw a toll-free area code.  Arrgh!  A solicitor, I thought — but because I believe in being polite, I answered anyway.

“Hello?” I said, only half-listening and preparing to cut the sales pitch short.

“Mr. Webner, it’s the American Red Cross.  You’ve saved 21 lives with your prior donations.  We’re in need of blood and hope that you will come to the blood drive we’re having in your area.”

“I’m sorry, you’ve caught me at a busy time at work,” I began automatically.  Then I realized it was the Red Cross calling, not a solicitor.  “Wait a minute . . . what did you say about the 21 lives?”

“We calculate that each unit of donated blood saves three lives,” the woman at the other end of line said.  “We use every part of your donation — the plasma, the blood cells, and the platelets.  Since you’ve given 7 units, we think you’ve saved 21 lives.”

It’s an exaggeration, I’m sure — some of the people who’ve received my blood, or part of it, probably weren’t in danger of dying — but it was an effective pitch nevertheless.  It made me feel good to think that I had, possibly, helped some people in their hour of need.  So we discussed my next blood donation.

After having never given blood before, I decided a few years ago to become more civic-minded.  Giving blood is a simple way to lend a hand, and I am embarrassed that I didn’t start doing so until recently.  I’ve tried to make up for my past oversight, however, by becoming a regular whenever the Red Cross comes to the firm for donations.

I’m happy to think I may have touched 21 lives.  It will help to keep me going to the blood drives, rolling up my sleeve, and doing my part for the common good.

Go West, Young Man!

IMG_4887At the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in lower Manhattan, tucked into a corner of City Hall Park, you will find a statue of Horace Greeley.

A titan in his day, an ardent opponent of slavery, and publisher of the most famous newspaper in the land — the New York Tribune — Greeley is largely forgotten now, except for one claim to fame.  He is reportedly the person who wrote “Go west, young man!” and thereby captured, in four simple words, the concept of America in the 1800s, where opportunity and freedom could be found to the west, on the American frontier.

It’s a bit shocking to learn from Wikipedia that Greeley may never have written those words.  But the sentiment underlying the four words still rings true, regardless of who may have been their original author.  The essence of America is the freedom to pursue opportunity — however that opportunity may be defined and in whatever compass direction it may be found.

A Mean-Spirited Obituary — Or A Cathartic Moment?

My mother always taught us that if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.  That notion should apply, especially, to obituaries.

So what does it tell you when an obituary written about a woman by one of her 8 children pointedly says that she died “alone,” that she spent her lifetime “torturing” them “in every way possible,” and that her children “celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the afterlife reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty, and shame that she delivered on her children”?  The obituary, of a woman named Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick, appeared in the Reno Gazette Journal and is an amazing document.  Among other things, it says:  “Everyone she met, adult or child was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit.”

There’s obviously a back story here, and the Reno paper apparently pulled the obituary after it was first published and is doing an investigation.  In the meantime, the original obit has gone viral, and other news outlets are reporting on the history of this woman and her children — which apparently includes foster homes, a case decided by the Nevada Supreme Court, and legislation that allows children to terminate parental rights.

I’m sure there is a lot more to this story of apparent human misery.  One line in the obituary reads:  “Her surviving children will now live the rest of their lives with the peace of knowing their nightmare finally has some form of closure.”  I find myself wondering what terrible things must have happened to cause a child to write such words about her own mother.