Credit: Shadow Sculpture by Tim Noble and Sue Webster
Many years ago I met a Mom from Colorado Springs who donated the heart of her young son as a life-saving transplant . Typically, the donor family does not know who receives the organ, but in this case, the recipient of her son’s heart was a patient at the same hospital. The mother told me that she had put two and two together (in this case one and one together) and realized that her son’s heart, which was packed in ice, had only gone out one door and then into another door of the same hospital. I reached out to this mother because I had read in the paper that her son’s name was Caleb and I wondered if she knew that in Hebrew the name Caleb means “from the heart.” She didn’t, and was taken by the synchronicity.
In general, organ donations are kept anonymous or at least for a period of time, recipients and donors or donor families are not given contact information. The main reasons for keeping organ donation anonymous is to not burden the recipient with guilt or to feel obligated to the donor or donor family. There is one type of organ donation where the donor is typically revealed; the transplant of a face. Since 2005 there have been a few dozen successful face transplants and many of these recipients and donor families know each other. Perhaps when receiving someone else’s face it is only natural that the recipient wants to know “whose face am I wearing?”
If you were in need of a transplanted organ would you want to know the identity of your donor? Those recipients who are in favor of agencies revealing donor identity, express the desire to share their gratitude. Can we feel gratitude in the same way when we cannot direct gratitude to a specified source? The flip side of this question is feeling that our contribution, while appreciated, cannot be acknowledged personally. Your vote certainly counts, but as an anonymous declaration you don’t expect a thank you note.
How can we further our awareness and practice of gratitude this week of Thanksgiving? Practice giving thanks to those who are anonymous to us. We used to have, even in our urban settings, relationships with service people who were simply doing their jobs. Now these workers give anonymously. For the next few weeks, and you may need to be creative, leave a thank you note for all those delivery or pick up people you may never meet but are dutifully bringing you packages or collecting your garbage, recycling or compost. Our neighbors leave (left-over Halloween) candy on their porch for delivery people to take if they want over the holidays.
I mentioned in a previous blog that I inquired from the man who stands asking for money, on one of the busy intersections I pass by daily, his name. As little as I help him, he gifts me with the opportunity to dig into my pocket and dig into my capacity for non-judgment and kindness. After we exchanged names and I gave him some money, I saw him smile for the first time. He was no longer anonymous.
If you and I can practice transforming those anonymous givers into appreciated people, then all the more so we can increase our sense of gratitude for those known people who give to us.