Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Challenge to the Red Cross

I've been giving blood to the Red Cross on a regular basis for several years. At the most basic level, it's because of the simple words of Leviticus 17:14: "For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life" (ESV). That is obviously true physically, but the spiritual implications are even more profound. The reason animals were sacrificed and their blood poured out as an atoning sacrifice in the Old Testament was to graphically illustrate the giving of an innocent LIFE for a guilty LIFE. The innocent animal's blood was shed so that the blood of the guilty human could remain un-shed; so his LIFE could be spared. This was preparatory and temporary for the ultimate blood exchange yet to come. This physical-spiritual sacrificial substitution motif culminated, of course, in the Lamb of God, Jesus of Nazareth, shedding His innocent blood in place of the "guilty" blood of human beings. He gave His blood (His LIFE) so that my blood (my LIFE) could be saved.

My blood, it goes without saying, has no atoning power. If it did, the Red Cross wouldn't hound me with phone calls every 50-odd days to come back and give again. Those who received a transfusion of Kruidenier blood would rise whole and healed and my blood would be in constant demand. Such, alas, is not the case.

I give blood purely for the physical help it may provide to another—someone in need of LIFE as a result of surgery or an accident. My blood is the most valuable physical possession I have. Nothing else I own is able to keep another person alive and convey new LIFE to someone who might otherwise die. So when I tithe my blood (give away one of my 10 pints) every 2-3 months, it's just another way to stay in touch with Jesus' "better to give than to receive" viewpoint (Acts 20:35). (And I confess: I would much rather be a giver of blood than a needer of blood.) (But giving blood is also healthy from what I have read. It deletes accumulated iron stores in men who don't lose blood monthly the way women do, and giving a large block of blood at one time stimulates fresh blood reproduction in the body. Out with the old, in with the new.)

Now -- to the point of this post. I have worn my curmudgeonly hat to give blood on more than one occasion, yesterday being one of those days. I never leave home with the hat on, but I find it has assumed its cranial cap once I have finished giving blood and I'm invited to "have a snack" -- the post-operative way the RC has of thanking you for coming in and getting your blood sugar stimulated so you don't faint on the way out the door and end up needing back the blood you just gave. As usual, after donating blood yesterday, I was invited to sift through a Trick or Treat-like collection of junk snacks and have my choice of a soda. Which would mean, if I availed myself of these offerings, my remaining blood would be less healthy upon leaving the Red Cross venue than the pint I was leaving with them.

Another reason I give blood regularly is because I believe it's in pretty decent shape and might actually be a healthy addition to the average person's body. But I am always amazed that the Red Cross -- an organization in the business of promoting and saving lives, offers their donors nothing better to build up their donor's health than soda and processed, trans-fat laden junk food.

Yesterday, there were a couple of volunteers my age who were helping man the "recovery" area. When I was offered soda and a snack, I opted for a bottled water and no snack. (This is where I found the curmudgeonly hat had appeared.) I said to the two guys (I've learned to do this in a laughing, winsome way so as not to offend), "No thanks. You know, it always amazes me that the Red Cross offers snacks to people that make their blood worse than it was before they came in. You'd think they would want to set a better example."

The guys chuckled (they knew I was right) and one of them started rifling through the box and came up with a "granola bar." I said I'd seen that bar before and passed because it was full of trans-fats (hydrogenated oils), which set in motion a couple minutes of label reading. The granola bar went back in the box and this time a packet or raisins was extracted. I said that looked better: "Let's see what's in it." We immediately began looking for a couple of lines of ingredients on the label and I couldn't seem to find a list. Suddenly I realized why: The ingredient list had only one word in it—Raisins. No cane sugar, no added anything. So we cheered and all three of us had a packet of raisins.

There have been a couple of instances when the blood donation was held at a church and some of the church members (I assume) had baked fresh goodies for donors to sample: cookies, brownies, and the like. But even then, there would always be the Red Cross staples of junk-food snacks and soda (sometimes small containers of fruit juice) for the hard-core American donors to feed on. Even though the homemade snacks were probably not particularly healthy, they were a step in the right direction. And even though I didn't eat them, I thanked the volunteers for providing them.

So my challenge to the Red Cross is this: In keeping with your commitment to sustaining LIFE by collecting blood, how about matching it with a commitment to building better blood among your donors. How about setting a better example by providing fresh fruit and fruit juices for donors to snack on (or, at least, "healthy" cookies, etc.) after they give blood. (Or asking your host organizations to provide it.) I'm in the habit of taking along a banana or apple to eat, along with one of their bottles of water, after donating. But I know most folks aren't going to do that. So here's hoping the Red Cross will continue not only their good work of service in so many ways, but grab a small opportunity to increase the quality of the blood they hope to collect and dispense to those in need.


  1. i wish our local red cross would FB post in the early morning where a blood drive in our town was being held that day. I suggested it but has not happened yet. The regional mgr thought it was a great idea but.......
    Long time blood donor. Mainly try to do it at rural churches where the snack is awesome, most of the time!

    You follow this guy, scott grannis?
    I enjoy his frequent financial analysis.

    Thanks for your insights!

  2. Good idea for RC -- hopefully they'll do it. I finally had to ask them to stop calling me unless they had a location in my immediate area (which they consistently do). They would want me to drive 20 miles into Charlotte in the middle of the day to the main RC donor center which I can't do. Lately I've begun receiving postcards in the mail with donation dates very near where I live -- so that's a definite improvement!

    Not familiar with Scott Grannis, but I'll check it out. Tx for the tip!