Here’s a powerful story of giving I wanted to share with you. It comes from Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird and illustrates the power of being selfless.
An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia, and he was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents explained to him that his blood was probably compatible with hers, and if so, he could be the blood donor. They asked him if they could test his blood. He said sure. So they did and it was a good match. Then they asked if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance of living. He said he would have to think about it overnight.
The next day he went to his parents and said he was willing to donate the blood. So they took him to the hospital where he was put on a gurney beside his six-year-old sister. Both of them were hooked up to IVs. A nurse withdrew a pint of blood from the boy, which was then put in the girl’s IV. The boy lay on his gurney in silence while the blood dripped into his sister, until the doctor came over to see how he was doing. Then the boy opened his eyes and asked, “How soon until I start to die?”1
Think about this boy for a second. From his perspective, a simple procedure to us was a life-sacrificing decision for him. And he willingly chose to give his life for his sister so she could live. “How soon until I start to die?”
What if you and I were to live with this selfless mindset? An approach to life and relating to others which puts them first and us last. Jesus said in Matthew 19:30 that “many who are first will be last, and the last first.” It’s completely counter cultural, isn’t it? Just take a quick look around social media and you’ll find plenty of self-centered posts. The latest craze in social media is Periscope, a service which allows live broadcasts from your phone. It’s a really cool tool, one I’m fired up about, but so many broadcasts are to stroke egos rather than help others.
As Christ-followers, we are taught to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. We are also encouraged to love others as ourselves. It’s in these daily practice that we will find fullness in life like never before. The eight-year-old boy denied his personal interests so his sister could live. What if we were to live in this way too?
So here’s a challenge. Ask yourself every day, “How soon until I start to die?” Post it on your mirror or the refrigerator or in your car. Make it the background image on your phone. Consider how short life is and how you aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. And see how the way you approach each day and the people you encounter transforms.
1Lamott, A. (1994). Bird by Bird. New York: Anchor books.