In the gospel according to John, Jesus tells his followers that after he is gone, they will do works greater than he did during his time with them. I have a big ol’ question mark over my head when it comes to faith healings and miraculous works done in the name of Jesus. For one thing, there’s still a whole motherlode of suffering happening in the world. For another, very faithful, “good” people still get sick and die. There’s no escaping The Great Equalizer, right? Death and taxes, friends. Just ask Mother Theresa.
I heard a sermon about this once, preached by my brother-in-law, that changed the way that I looked at this. We have done a lot more. Vaccines. Contact lenses. Mammograms. Mental health care. Hygiene and germ theory. Stem cell transplants! There are still a myriad of miracles yet to happen, but when I look at what modern medicine has done for humanity, I am in awe. Researchers and physicians are eradicating modern-day “demons” in a way that the original disciples of Jesus could not possibly have imagined.
A great deal of that modern medicine is practiced at the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, employing over 100,000 people and hosting 7.2 million visits per year. That is mind-blowing to me. The medical center sits across the street from our church, Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church. This week, some of the staff from Palmer visited a sick child in the hospital in the medical center. This child is one of many who are treated there, and it is absolutely unfair and terrible that he is sick.
What can we do? Especially those of us who aren’t some of the 100,000 people who dedicated their lives to helping patients?
Apparently … we can do more.
Our Palmer staff reported that they have a large need for donated blood. The staff at the Texas Children’s Hospital suggested that Palmers donate at the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. This is something that almost all of us can do, regardless of our income or status. My husband can’t, and he takes an almost perverse pride in telling folks why he’s prohibited from donating blood. It wasn’t IV drug use or nefarious conduct that got him on the “do not draw” list, but a semester spent abroad in London during college, in 1990. (Let it be known that I was a mere CHILD then. Ahem. We met much later.) During that time, apparently mad cow disease was a thing, and so the Red Cross has refused donations from people who spent time in England around that time ever since. It’s too bad – Neil barely ever moos or swishes his tail, so you’d think they’d let him donate. Oh well.
Anyway, I first donated blood in college. I’m not super excited about needles, but there was a blood drive on campus, and the pastor at the ELCA Lutheran Campus Center where I spent a lot of time encouraged us to donate. He went so far as to bake a home-baked loaf of bread for anyone who donated blood, and if a student could not donate (like poor Neil) but could find a friend to donate as their “proxy,” he would bake a bread for the blood donor and the friend that brought them. I don’t know how many of you remember college, but homemade baked goods rank right up there with quarters for the laundry machines. Remember, I went to college in a simpler time, when carbs were not the devil.
I looked for a photo of the bread-baking pastor at the Lutheran Campus Center in Madison. I couldn’t find one, but looking through the photos of what they did when I was in college and since then, it’s no wonder I was drawn to the place. A roaring fire in the fireplace, endless coffee, dear friends, and my first exposure to the grace-filled theology that I now find so comforting in Neil’s sermons. It was a haven from the busy, bustling world of a large university, and I loved it there. There were no easy answers offered for the big question marks hanging over my head, but there was something even better than that: there were smart, faithful, well-read people there who would sit with me and the questions for as long as I needed to be there.
I don’t know if I can keep up with my college pastor’s example and bake dozens of loaves of bread. But, if you are in the Houston area, and you donate blood, take a photo of the location where you donated and post it in the comments here. For the first five photo comments, I will offer you a homemade loaf of bread. If you can’t donate but bring a friend to donate in your place, I will bake one for each of you. It’s not the loaves and the fishes, but it’s something. Even if you’re not local to Houston or one of the first five commenters here, I hope you’ll consider donating blood. We can do more.