By Rebecca Rasmussen
Every semester at the college where I teach English, there is a Red Cross blood drive, and every semester I give my blood in the school’s gymnasium on the designated day. Usually, I have to hurry along afterward to teach one of my classes. When my students see the bandage on my arm, they generally say things like, “Ouch!” or “Gross!” or “I would faint if I had to see my blood!”
I used to be like them. When I was a girl, I was so afraid of needles that I actually ran out of my pediatrician’s office with one still stuck in my arm. (People in my family still love to tell that story – that’s how epic it was.)
The trouble was that I just didn’t see the beauty in my blood then. I didn’t see it until years later, when I figured out how much other people needed it.
This semester, after I gave blood, I came to class with a plan. When students inevitably asked me about the bandage on my arm, I passed out articles about the myriad of ways average old blood like mine has saved other people’s lives during surgeries, transfusions, and life threatening diseases. I talked about how the Red Cross has helped so many millions of people during disasters, both manmade and natural, and about what it means to me to be part of a community, how that involves giving as well as receiving.
And you know what? Later that day, I saw a handful of them with bandages on their arms, too. I smiled at each of them. My plan had worked.
Rebecca Rasmussen lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and daughter, where she teaches writing and literature at Fontbonne University. She is the author of The Bird Sisters.