I Gave Red

I was reminded of the first t-shirt I ever got for donating blood at Bonfils. It was just after I’d graduated high-school, but I think before I started college. My Dad had donated at a work-based blood drive in the past, and there was a need for his blood type in particular, so Bonfils gave him a call.

We went out to breakfast at Dot’s (where we’ve been having breakfast since I was 2), and then walked into the donation center in Boulder.

We gave our pints, and got the t-shirt as a thank you. On the front were two check-boxes: “I gave red” and “I gave green”. I love that t-shirt. I’ve worn it to near-death and threatened to modify it in a number of different ways. Yet, it remains unmodified because I don’t want to risk ruining it.

It’s been approximately 10 years since that first donation, and I’m currently working on my 9th gallon of O+ given. My Dad and I still have breakfast at Dot’s, then donate (and then I get comic books, at Time Warp right next door – most awesome Saturday morning routine ever).

I realized that I’ve never really looked into the situations I’m supplying. I know what I know via exposure rather than attention. Bonfils is great with informing their donor community, and the occasional news story will mention community blood supply. More often, a sense of the blood supply shows up in the phrase “[patient] received [x] units of blood during surgery”. In fiction, that blood is always miraculously available – the hospital had it and there was no question (much like money in fiction – you notice how it’s always available when the plot requires?). Often in the news, blood makes an equally miraculous appearance – as if of course it’s going to be available whenever a patient needs.

I am gaining an appreciation for all that needs to happen in order for that to be true – because it’s often a balancing act, with medical personnel deciding between both the danger to the patient (receiving blood is no small matter, immune system wise) and availability of acceptable blood. Blood has a non-negotiable expiration date. Spikes in donations during catastrophe can’t be smoothed out to help during the smaller emergencies that don’t engender such public outpouring. There’s no way to save up people’s generosity, no way to carry the surplus forward.

So I keep giving – catastrophe or no. And one day, I’ll get to make a joke about Vulcans while wearing that T-shirt.

Philanthropy

Philanthropy. From WordNet at Princton: “S: (n) philanthropy, philanthropic gift (voluntary promotion of human welfare)”

I just spent two days ruminating about stuff. And by “stuff” I mean the things I tend to buy to make myself feel better. Books and jewelry often fall into this category, as I pick the things that I think will match or signal that I am the person I wish to be. It doesn’t really work that way, but there isn’t a reading buff in the world that hasn’t been seduced by the possibilities of symbolism.

So, this last two days, I took a portion of the discretionary part of my latest paycheck that usually goes to new books or impulse purchases, and I reacted impulsively to calls for donations online. In so doing, I realized that I’ve been pretty quiet, as far as online support for good causes goes. This is me not being particularly quiet anymore.

DonorsChoose.org - Give to a classroom! - Go

I was introduced to DonorsChoose.org in that great way that online communication works. Someone who I read online frequently posted a link to someone else, who I read less frequently, linking to a classroom project that resonated particularly with the online subculture I hang around in (albeit quietly). A classroom in LA wanted individual copies  of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, which I had read not-too-long-ago, and had the book rock my world. So I donated to the classroom project, flush with the enthusiasm of a reader who wanted to share her new favorite book with the ENTIRE REST OF THE WORLD (seriously, you should read Parable of the Sower).

And then, not too long later, someone else that I read online donated her birthday to DonorsChoose – making a giving page, with projects in her area, and thus introducing me to the concept.

I learned how to use my account, created a Giving Page with projects in my State, set up a monthly donation, and haven’t regretted it since. I  had to renew my monthly giving today, which lead to me re-doing the giving page, adding it to my sidebar here on this blog, and in general being more actively aware of what I was involved in than I had been previously.

DonorsChoose is a transparent organization, posting their Financial Reports where anyone on the internet can find them. They recently celebrated their 10th Anniversary as an organization:

They are a Charity Navigator 4 star charity, with 92% of their income going to their programs.

And they are a prime example of large-scale crowdfunding, something the Salvation Army has been doing for a while, but which became easier with the advent of a large, engaged online population.
DonorsChoose.org - Give to public schools!

Achievements and my psychology.

The husband and I play a lot of video games. A feature introduced to us with our XBox are achievements for meeting certain criteria within the games. My current obsession is Dragon Age: Origins, which comes on my gaming system with a set of achievements. Achievements are earned by fulfilling a set of conditions during game-play. They are pretty obviously designed to get someone to spend more hours playing the game than they already would have, by appealing to the collector-soul present in the populace. They also get completists to pay up for  extra content that they might not have gone for, if it weren’t for the empty slots that will show up on their list of achievements.

What’s all this leading up to? My status as a habitual blood-donar, actually.

Approximately every eight weeks, since the space of time between when I graduated high school and when I started college, my Dad and I meet for breakfast at Dot’s Diner and then go give up a pint each to Bonfils Blood Center. Bonfils gives out neat gold-colored pins for every gallon that you donate. Totally separate from the feeling of civic pride, of being useful to society, of knowing that the line between recovery and not may be my pint of O+, is the nice little adrenaline rush, the sense of collecting, when I get one of those pins.

According to calculations, I should be getting another one – 8 gallons – next time I give.

And knowing that, I realized that what I’m feeling is exactly the same as when I know that I’m about to complete the game-play conditions for another achievement – one of the ones I’ve had to work for. It’s a strange thing to realize that my brain is rewarding me for both experiences in the same way. That rush of having done something.

The psychology is self-feeding, at least for me.  Proving that I’m not the do-gooding, altruistic person that does things like give blood just for the betterment of her neighbors. No, I get that nice little adrenaline rush too, encouraging me to come back, to level up, just eight more pints and I get another pin.

And you know what? I’m not going to fight it – because the behavior does better my neighbors, even if that’s not the totality of the reason why I do it.

Colorado Voter Registration Deadline

While I have very definite opinions regarding the races, amendments (!!!) and other ballot issues this year, my primary concern is the voter turn-out. Americans are abysmal at turning out to vote without a sexy Presidential Election or Immovable Opinions to bring them in.  Personally, I vote a multi-party ticket, and I suspect that I am not alone.

I am invested in a highly-populated, informed voting public, and I know I appreciate having the Am I Registered? Where’s My Polling Place? and What’s On The Ballot? answers within easy reach. So I share that easy reach with you, Dear Reader.

Deadline to Register is October 4 (next Monday).
Election information, voter registration options (including registering online or checking your current registration status) are all available at the CO Secretary of State website:
http://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/

The electronic copy of the 2010 Blue Book (information, including write-ups of the opposing viewpoints on all state-wide ballot measures, and not produced by any of the political parties), is available here: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CGA-LegislativeCouncil/CLC/1200536134742

An audio copy of the 2010 Blue Book is available here: http://www.cde.state.co.us/ctbl/resources/2010_Legislative_Blue_Book.htm

Crowd-sourced information on ballot measures is a beautiful thing to see this year:

We have awesome resources for voters, some of them even disconnected from Party Politics. Yet, it’s our duty to use them – a free country and a working Representative Democracy are not going to be just handed to us.