Giving Big: Follow The Journey

Though I founded this blogsite a year ago, I’ve only more recently found Gloria Little, on the right. She has advanced kidney disease, which is ultimately fatal. I am healthy, and believe I have a kidney to spare. We think we may be each other’s blessing.

With Gloria’s permission, I’m blogging about my journey toward our hoped-for kidney transplant surgery. Did you know 13 people die daily in the U.S. – 4,745 per year – as they wait for a kidney transplant they never receive? And that doesn’t count people in other countries. (For perspective, 400 people have died in the U.S. from the coronovirus as of March 23rd).

It’s a vulnerable kind of journey. I feel intimidated by transplant surgery. I dread the isolation of weeks spent recovering from it (I’ll welcome visits). Most of all I fear physical pain; discomfort is such a euphemism.

I’m motivated by the greater pain of people like Gloria,  who lives a few miles from me here in Portland Oregon. Gloria, 61 to my 59, has been on dialysis almost three years. People die an average of five years after starting dialysis. African Americans die disproportionately from kidney disease, and from pretty much any disease you can name. I really hate that fact.

And it turns out I’m not powerless about it. I can use my health, my body, my spare kidney, to shore up Gloria’s life. Possibly save it. We want to have an impact beyond one woman donating her kidney to another.

By impact, I don’t mean you or anyone else ought to donate a kidney. I know it’s not a fit for most people (though I thought that about myself until one year ago). But everyone has a big give inside of them. Possibly you are already living yours out. Big gives are shaped by our gifts, our circumstances, and our souls. And I suspect they take the shape of our community’s soul. Big gives are never solo acts, even though our culture tries to say they are.

My understanding so far – I keep sussing it out by observing the people I admire, both living and dead  – is that big gives

  • help redress injustice or suffering in the world
  • add joy, beauty or connectedness
  • happen in teamwork with others (the solo act is a Western myth)

I’ll be writing about not just my kidney donation as it unfolds, but about gives in general — big, small, all sizes. What helps us do them? And how can personal, micro-level actions (like mine) feed into the systemic, macro-level changes (like reparations) that are badly needed?

The plan is for Gloria to receive my kidney later this year; the exact date is unknown. She and I must undergo more tests first, and success is never guaranteed. But we know what success can look like. One kidney recipient I interviewed told me receiving her new kidney was like getting plugged into an electric socket. She immediately hummed with new energy. She regained her former vigorous life.

How can you help me and Gloria to have an impact beyond ourselves?

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25 thoughts on “Giving Big: Follow The Journey”

  1. As a person of faith, I am using the God word but others may want to substitute something that works for them. But, God gives us unique strengths (i.e) gifts and that is the well that we have to draw on to do our gives. A big give for one person, as you often point out, may be as natural as breathing. I think the beauty of your message is to do the balance between what comes naturally and being open to a unique new give that matches the special needs of our times. Pass it on, Alison!

  2. Alison, thank you for sharing your blog with me! I’m in awe of your generosity and courage. Wishing you and Gloria full success in this journey you are both taking.

  3. Thanks you, Alison and Gloria for sharing your story. I am moved by the bravery and humility. I believe the best outcome for you and trust God to prosper you and give you hope and future.

    1. Ivan, it’s wonderful to hear from you. As you know, I too believe in God, and appreciate your seeing God as being a part of this story. Thanks for your support, dear friend!

  4. You have hit on a huge question, one that stirs me also:

    How can personal, micro-level actions (like mine) feed into the systemic, macro-level changes (like reparations) that are badly needed?

    I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this, ones that spark deep discussions. I do think that inspiring others is a good thing, in and of itself, but what are the odds that another person will, in turn, take a “giving action” of their own as a result? When, why and how does inspiration shift to inspired action? I wonder if anyone has studied this …

    Much support to you as your kidney donation progresses.


  5. You’re giving a wonderful gift, Alison! Your selflessness and endless passion for helping others is inspiring. I’m sending lots of love and light to you and Gloria both.

    1. Lana, I got a warm feeling in my abdomen (right near my kidneys, I think) when I read just now that you are sending love and light to me and Gloria. Thank you so much.

  6. You’re awesome. I’m inspired. I just helped a friend of mine in a search for his kidney donor and he found one !!! hopefully will be happening in the next couple of weeks – yes not only having an impact but saving a life —thank you my friend

    1. Susie, it’s exciting to hear that you helped a friend find his kidney donor. Good work! And great to hear from you in general.

    1. Jeff, you are one of the people I alluded to who are already living out their big give. Deep respect for you. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Beautiful photo of you and Gloria! I will share far and wide. Can’t wait to hear what happens next!

  8. Alison, This is such an excellent example of heartful giving…even reparation…for our white privilege. We are one Life on this amazing earth, all connected. Thank you for your courageous example.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Emily. You have been giving to the world on multiple levels for many years!

    1. Alison is an amazing woman. I thank God every day for bringing her into my life. I am so excited to even have the opportunity to get a kidney. Thank-you all for your well wishes. It means alot!

      1. Gloria, you are the one who has been going through the enormous stress of advanced kidney disease, and handling it with grit and poise. I do not feel at all amazing compared to you. Big hug.

    2. Alison, how generous of you to give the gift of life to Gloria! I like the image of her feeling like she is “getting plugged into a light socket” of energy! I hope that the procedure goes well for both of you. Micki

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