Thursday, May 17, 2012

Of Blood and Onions

I'm giving blood today.  It's my spring onion.

In the Karamozov Brothers, Grushenka, the trollop whose miraculous turnabout is the hidden miracle confirming the sanctity of the Elder Zosimas, tells a story.  While she was toying with Aloysha, half-heartedly trying to seduce him, she says, "I have given a spring onion."  Grushenka then goes on to tell a story that her grandmother had told her.  The story goes something like this:

A very mean and selfish woman once gave a spring onion to a beggar.  When she died, she found herself in torment, and her guardian angel begged God to take pity on her.  The Lord said to the angel, "Once she gave a spring onion to a beggar.  You  may take that onion and offer it to her in her torment.  If she holds on to it, she may be pulled out of torment by it."  The angel took that onion and offered it to her in her torment and the woman held on to it.  Slowly, the angel began to pull the woman out of her torment with that onion.  However--being a Russian story it cannot have a happy ending--others in torment saw her being lifted from hell and grabbed on to her saying, "lift us out of our torment with you!"  But the woman began to kick and scream, "This is my onion!"  And with that, the onion snapped and the woman fell back into the flames.

Giving blood is my onion.  It is a small offering.  Hardly anything really.  I don't miss it.  The hassle of making and keeping the appointment is more of a bother than the actual blood giving.  It is only a spring onion.  But small offerings can have big consequences, especially if they are given for the salvation of others.  It is not my blood--I didn't buy it.  It is human blood, blood that can save the life of any other human being.  If I think of it that way it helps me realize that giving blood is not so much an act of generosity as an expression of common humanity.  It might even be a kind of love, a love strong enough to pull several out of their personal torments, and perhaps, if God has pity, me too.


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