May 14, 2011

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts

Save 3 lives today!
I firmly believe that I am an example.  Perhaps the most important example my daughters will ever have.  We look to our parents to show what it means to be a human being, but also what it means to be whatever other modifiers we need to understand... What does it mean to be a female human being?  An  adult human being?  A Jewish human being?  A human being building relationships with other human beings?

In all of these things, we look to the person who most represents ourselves.  The source, as it were.

Our parents.

All of the building blocks of our understandings of human interaction come from watching the people who teach us to be human beings.

I believe there are some things that you can do to set a good example.  You can be polite, you can be forgiving and kind, you can smile easily and hug freely.  But some things go a little bit deeper than every day behavior.

I remember being very young and asking my father what happened when you died.  I think I had just killed a bug, a grasshopper or something.  I must have been about eight years old, standing in the back yard by the basement door.  Not making eye contact.  I already knew that dead was dead, and there was no coming back.  It had just occurred to me that that might not be the whole picture, though.

My father gave me a lecture about religion.  How there are many different religions, and they have different beliefs about what happens when you die, but nobody really knows for sure.  He told me about reincarnation, which he said he believed, and about Heaven and Hell, and about simply not being anything anymore.  He told me that it's up to each of us to individually decide what we believe is true.

I learned nothing about death, but I learned a lot about asking the right questions.  Critical questions.  I learned to truly doubt, and to truly consider my own feelings, to value them.  I learned not to judge other people's beliefs.

This was one of the most important lessons in my life.  I joke about it sometimes, an example of my hippie father providing the most inclusive world-view he possibly could to his children in his efforts to raise us as progressive thinkers and social activists.

Which worked, of course.

It wasn't just that he taught me the lessons he was trying to teach me.  I learned from his decision to speak to me as a person capable of critical thought, of my own decision making abilities.  I learned from him (and for those of you who know my father, this might strike you as a tad absurd) to be humble about my own beliefs.  I learned that sometimes what you feel or believe is less important than how you say things.

My parents- pre Godlike Example Era
He could have told me that when you died, your soul was reincarnated into a different body.  After all, it's what he believed.  But instead he told me that he didn't know for certain, and that it was up to me to make a choice.  Or not.

I am very conscious of setting these sorts of examples for my children.  Very conscious that, at least for the next five years or so, every action I take says something about what it means to be human, an adult, a woman... everything that I am, they learn from what I do and say.

I remember believing my parents were godlike.  They were the model against which all others were judged.  I remember being ten years old and starting to understand that they were really just people, like any other people (no matter how individually wonderful and brilliant), and I remember my heart breaking.  I remember being a teenager and desperate to relate to my parents as friends and equals.  I remember not so long ago realizing that it was ultimately impossible, because my expectations for them would always be unrealistic, and I would always crave their approval in a profoundly un-friend-like way.

Today, I donated blood.  The Chicago blood banks are in serious need, and there are always blood drives somewhere.  There are donation centers scattered throughout the city.  It saves lives, and it's easy to do.

But that's not why I did it.  I did it so that, in another few months when I donate again, and a few months after that, and on and on, when my daughters ask me what I'm doing I can tell them- "I'm donating more blood, to save more lives."

I will be able to tell them that for their whole lives I've been doing this, and that when they're old enough they can do it too.  I'll be able to tell them that human beings are all made of the same things, the same parts, and that we can share parts the way we share food and toys, and instead of just making people happy we can make them healthy.

I'll be able to tell them that on the inside, we're all pretty much the same, so if either of them ever need more blood or a kidney or a lung, somebody will be able to share that with them, to help them be healthy.

I'll be able to tell them that we don't get to keep our bodies forever, but that if we take care of them we can do wonderful things with them, and that giving blood to help people get better when they're hurt is one of those things.

I am setting an example.  If my kids take away the lessons I'm trying to teach, my big socialist message about all being in this together, that's fantastic.  But I hope they take something bigger away from it.  Something like my father's lesson about humility.  Because he's one of my examples of how to be a good parent, how to be a good person.  And I hope I learned every lesson he took the time to teach me.

Find a place to donate blood near you.
             Life Source
             The Red Cross

"Lego" from XKCD by Randall Munroe


  1. Beautiful! You are setting a great example for your children by donating and helping save lives. There is such a need. God bless!

  2. Stopping by from Acting Balanced. This is a great post and very thought-provoking. Another reminder, too, to take time and pay attention to our kids. For, we can't be an example if we're not paying attention to them. ;)

  3. Another awesome post! And good for you for setting this example. I used to be a VIP blood donor, until I developed a health condition.

    Your talking about my parents made me think of the 50th wedding present I am planning for mine this summer. They have set a shining example for me of how to make a loving relationship last. And that is an example I hope my hubby and I will set for our daughter.

    Google Friends Connect is working now, so I can follow you! ;)

    Stopping by from the TMP blog hop!

  4. Such a great post! Thanks for writing about this ... it's so important.

  5. Very true! As parents we are such a big influence on our children. I don't think parents always realize the impact their decisions and actions make on little ones. I hear so many Moms say their children won't drink water or eat veggies... but I find out they don't do that themselves. Why do they think telling their kids to do something will work when their actions show otherwise.

  6. What a beautiful post! I'm an organ donor myself. I found you at the Hop Along Friday Blog Hop and am glad I did, am a happy new follower :).

  7. @MarleeHi Marlee! It's awesome that you're a donor! Have you already donated, or did you just sign up? I'd love to hear stories about actually donating an organ! I'm getting myself on the bone marrow registry this summer. :)

  8. lol. I guess I will donate blood this week! I am AB neg, so the rarest of all the blood types! I should always be donating, between birthing and breastfeeding I put it off, but both of those stages are over in my life so it is time to return to the bank!


  9. Awesome post! Came to visit from Bloggy Moms "Moms with a Purpose"...and you certainly have one! Or many, I think. :)
    I love that you are such a strong positive role model for your children...I believe this is what it is all about.
    Hope you'll swing by and visit my blog:
    My son and his wife live in I visit there on occasion. :)



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