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Start by donating blood

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Blood donation is a great opportunity to cultivate a habit of generosity (Nguyen Hiep - Unsplash)

By Nahrizul Adib Kadri

For many years, I was a regular blood donor, visiting either the UMMC Transfusion Unit, or wherever there are blood donation drives (I once donated while on the way to a Raya open house!) – once every three months.

Nahrizul Adib Kadri

However, following my brain surgery in 2016, I was told that I could no longer donate. This restriction is due to concerns about the potential for blood-borne infections or complications related to the surgery. Brain surgery can introduce various risks, including the potential for infections like meningitis or encephalitis, which could theoretically be transmitted through blood donation. Additionally, there might be concerns about the impact of the surgery on overall health and the immune system, making it safer for individuals who have undergone such procedures to stop from donating blood.

Well, this article is certainly not about my surgery or the health benefits of blood donation. But rather on what I think is a more profound, intrinsic value of this act, namely the habit of sharing what we have.

In ancient Greek civilization, the concept of “philanthropia” – the love of humanity – was central to their ethos. It wasn’t about giving from excess but about cultivating a habit of generosity and kindness. The Greeks believed that by regularly giving, individuals could develop virtues of compassion and empathy, strengthening the fabric of society.

Aristotle, in his work “Nicomachean Ethics,” discussed the concept of “megalopsychia,” or magnanimity, highlighting that true greatness comes from the ability to give generously. Plato, in his dialogues, often referenced the virtue of sharing knowledge and resources as a cornerstone of a just and flourishing society.

From an Islamic perspective, the emphasis on generosity is profound and all-encompassing. A well-known hadith from the Prophet Muhammad SAW states, “The believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his sadaqa (charity)” (Al-Tirmidhi). This hadith encapsulates the essence of giving in Islam – that charity and generosity are not just acts of kindness but investments in one’s spiritual well-being and the well-being of society as a whole.

It is through the regular practice of generosity that we cultivate the virtues necessary to build compassionate and empathetic communities. It is never about pursuing to the excess so that we can give, but the consistent habit of sharing what we can.

And this principle holds true today (especially so today, I must add). The act of giving, whether it is time, resources, or blood in this case, fosters a sense of community and interconnectedness. Blood donation, in particular, is a very significant example. It requires us to share something very precious, something that we cannot live without, or buy in the online store or ‘pasar malam’. Each donation is an act of trust and generosity, given without knowing who will receive it or how it will be used.

It’s easy to promise ourselves that we will give when we have more – more money, more time, more energy. But in reality, if giving is not part of our habit, it becomes increasingly difficult to do, no matter how much we have. By making giving a personal habit, we ensure that generosity becomes a natural part of our life.

For me, the beauty of blood donation lies in its anonymity and selflessness. We give a part of ourselves without expecting anything in return, knowing that it will benefit someone in need, somewhere.

In conjunction with World Blood Donor Day observed annually on 14 June, I urge everyone who is able to donate blood. Beyond the immediate health benefits, it is a great opportunity to cultivate a habit of generosity and kindness.

Something that we can always have an excess of, don’t you think?

The author is an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Universiti Malaya. He may be reached at nahrizuladib@um.edu.my

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