Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blood and Perspective

One day, while Cohen was still in the NICU, I was sitting in the hospital cafeteria alone picking at my [junk]food and I overheard the conversation of the two guys at the table nearest to me. Both wore scrubs and had a I'm-geeky-but-not-in-the-trendy-way sort of vibe; they were heavily involved in a conversation about Magic cards (remember the card game Magic?). They were discussing strategies and what cards were best and a lot that I didn't understand while I mentally laughed at them. Here they were, two grown men seemingly obsessed with the game my brother liked in like 6th grade. I felt so superior.

Then one of them stopped to answer a call on his cell. After he hung up the other guy asked him what the call had been about. It went something like this:

Guy #1, very nonchalantly: Oh, it was just the blood bank. They like to hit me up every couple of months for some blood.

Guy #2, with some enthusiasm: Yeah man, me too. It's cool though, you know, you get a good feeling for helping people. And there's the swag.

Guy #1, now very enthusiastic: Yeah! I love helping people out and I love me some swag!

They go on to talk about the different sorts of "swag" they have received for their blood; t-shirts, hats, tickets to events... Then Guy #1 invites Guy #2 to go with him and give some blood on Thursday. They set the date and move on when their conversation.

Suddenly I didn't feel so superior. I felt really, really small and terribly grateful. Who was I to judge these men for their interests? These were men who I knew 3 things about: they work at a hospital, they like to play magic, and they love to give blood. 2 of the 3 things on the list qualified as pretty awesome and while the magic thing was a little strange in my book, I'm sure there are plenty of strange things they could have pointed out about me. The no-longer-pregnant-but-still-looks-pregnant style I was sporting should have been first one the list.

I think overhearing that conversation may have been a significant stop on my path toward acceptance and respect of all sorts of people. I was feeling so high and mighty about the fact that I had a baby with Down syndrome and I was going to love him and treat him like I would any other child. I wasn't going to let a potential disability get in the way of how I viewed a person. I didn't realize that there are so many more reasons than physical or mental disability that we find to make walls between ourselves. I was not seeing these guys as people, I was seeing them geeks. Embarrassing. I placed their entire value on one piece of information about their interests.

The next morning the resident informed me that Cohen had been given blood in the night. I couldn't help but think of those guys and silently thank them for the gifts they had offered.

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