Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 4/19/2010 [Archive]

Recycling Everything

Recycling Everything

By Martha Randolph Carr

Recently, I wrote about the Nicholas Effect that happened in 1994 after US citizens, Reg and Maggie Green donated their seven year old son, Nicholas' organs to save seven Italian lives and forgave the men who had murdered their child. So many people reported that just seeing the acts of compassion on TV had profoundly impacted their lives. That's the Nicholas Effect.

Thanks to readers in New Bern and Yuma who sent Reg the column in California by way of Rome we were able to connect and chat more about the grace that comes from organ donation. According to UNet, which was developed by UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing and the largest registry of its kind, there are currently over 100,000 people in America waiting for an organ. The average wait time for those at the top of the list is about two months but the time grows the further down the list someone falls. Many people die waiting for a new organ and many never make the list.

Most people who are eligible to donate their organs don't take the necessary steps to ensure that can happen. Checking the little box on your driver's license is not enough. A health directive or living will that clearly states your intentions with some or all of your viable organs is really necessary if that's what someone intends for their remains.

However, just referring to ourselves as potential remains gives most of us the willies and we end up doing nothing. Its one thing to check a box while filling out an unrelated form but to actually say, sure, take it all in a formal document is a bigger hurdle. It's why a lot of people haven't even taken out a will. It's like we can push death away just a little if we refuse to look at it.

That method never works with death or collection agencies or spreading waistlines.

Right in the middle of when I was being treated for cancer, the rector at St. John's Episcopal in Chicago where I'm a member, was making a valiant effort to get everyone to fill out a form that would say exactly what they'd want in their funeral service. It was a unique and practical idea.

I couldn't get myself to do it, especially with the real possibility that it might be used sometime in the near future, so I ignored it altogether.

However, facing something and dealing with it to the best of our abilities can not only relieve us of small bits of guilt or resentment but can also open up the possibilities. We rarely gain something by holding on to what is no longer useful to us and we can even inadvertently trap ourselves in the memories of a painful era.

Reg Green's newest book, The Gift that Heals, chronicles the stories of families on both sides of the donation process and how the act of being able to give and receive changed everyone for the better. It's the Nicholas Effect at work again when out of something dark, goodness is able to prevail and it always begins with someone who is able to literally give of themselves.

Like the story of Dereck Lopez, a beautiful 18 year old girl who was a US citizen for two weeks before being killed by a drunk driver. Dereck was in school to become a kindergarten teacher and had spent her short life helping others. Her family wholeheartedly gave their approval knowing it's what Dereck would have wanted. The family was then able to make long-lasting connections with the people whose lives were saved and her father, Jorge was able to find some peace in a senseless accident. In some ways, Dereck's generosity saved his life as well.

There's an old saying, 'the hose gets the water first', that means when we're of service to someone else we receive the blessing first because we're reminded of some basic truths that can get lost underneath tragedies or even just busy schedules.

There is also something to be lost when we decide to keep everything for ourselves because we can't see how there's enough in the deal for us or we can't accept that things have changed forever.

Sometimes, you just give because it's the right thing to do and then the rest unfolds. That's when the cynicism and fear falls away and can be replaced by the idea that more is possible in our lives if we're willing to go toward it. That's what we receive in return and it's worth more than anything we could have cooked up on our own. Martha's latest book is a memoir, A Place to Call Home. Email Martha at:

© 2010 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email

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