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Giving for a Good Cause

When you volunteer to give blood, you show up at the designated location (i.e. school, church, illegal cock fight, etc.) and wait to be called by one of the technicians. Once they call you, you’re ushered over to a temporary cubicle away from prying eyes so they can ask you 348 health questions in 30 seconds to which you are supposed to answer “no” on each one. “Have you had in the last six months bodily fluids that defy description with a standard pallet of primary and secondary colors oozing from any natural or recently created orifices?” (They read those suckers so fast – I think that was one of the questions.)

One would think that they could hand you a laminated card when you first check in that had all of these questions, and at the bottom of the questionnaire there would be a note saying: “If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the previous questions, you may not donate blood today – you have more important things to worry about.” Instead, they bring you back to the cubicle and grill you. Some of the technicians give you the evil eye if they think you’re lying. You’re sort of waiting for the tech to lean across the little table and say, “Look. I understand you got caught up in the moment when everyone was signing up for the blood drive – you wanted to impress everyone with ‘Hey, look at me. I’m as selfless as any of you.’ But let’s be honest: you’re not eligible to donate, so I’m going to let you sit here for a couple more minutes and gather your wits about you. When you get up to leave, if anyone catches your eye and questions you, just tell them you have iron-poor blood. Do you understand? And don’t let me catch you back here again. Peer pressure’s tough, I’ll grant you, but the business end of my size eleven shoe is tougher.”

I do find a great deal of personal satisfaction with donating blood. Sure, it’s nice to think about the people I’m helping, and that’s all fine and dandy, but what I really enjoy about the whole experience is watching how nervous people get with the whole ordeal. I feel beholden to feed that fear.

The son of a friend of ours walked up to me and said he accompanied his dad so he could understand the whole process. Noting a look of trepidation on his face I said, “Not a bad plan, Chet, but I’m surprised it’s so quiet here today. Usually you hear a lot of screaming and moaning. They must be using some pretty strong drugs today. Better make sure they don’t slip you something – you could end up with a needle in your arm, too.” As the boy screamed and ran to find his dad, I noticed a lot of people were looking at me. I just told them, “Poor kid just found out he has iron-poor blood.”

While I’m fairly confident this young man will grow up to be a strong contributing member of society and won’t need hours of therapy (knock on wood), I’m reminded of how our perceptions are shaped by little tidbits we hear from someone we perceive as wise or intelligent (I’m sure Chet sees me as a pillar of knowledge). Our moms, for example, told us as children that we couldn’t go swimming for an hour after we ate. The truth behind that was our moms needed a nap (understandably so) – there was no scientific evidence supporting that – but we took that counsel as gospel, even though we weren’t happy about it.

At some point in almost everyone’s life, this little nugget of mortgage “truth” has been imparted: you have to have 20% saved for a down payment on a house. Over the last 35 years, according to the National Association of Realtors, the median down payment for a first-time homebuyer has been only 5%. Let that sink in for a moment. How many people could buy RIGHT NOW (with rocking interest rates) but are waiting until they’ve put away 20%? THAT should be a question they ask when you donate blood!

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