Sometimes, when life gets you down and you’re stressed, you begin to forget the good things in life, but luckily something like this comes around the corner: Starbucks barista donates kidney to customer . And then you stop and smile, maybe even shed a tear.
Somewhere between eating my Kashi cereal and brushing my teeth, this Today Show story caught my eye. A Seattle woman (who just happens to have the same genetic disease I do), received a kidney from her Starbucks barista. Turns out, the woman goes in the same Starbucks every day, and is served by the same barista. They make small talk about kids and family, and then one day, the woman looked a little low. The barista asked what was wrong, and after some prodding, the woman shared her story. And that’s all it took for the barista to offer her help — and her kidney.
Even this one takes my breath away. When I was going through the process to get on the organ donor list, I was too much in denial to really get what was going on. I didn’t understand how long 5 years (the average time someone on the list waits for a kidney) really is. I didn’t understand how sick I really was. Yet, people around me did. My friends volunteered to be tested, my family volunteered to be tested, even people I’d never met before in my life offered to be tested (my mom has a way of telling random people about our problems). In the end, I found a match and didn’t have to wait those 5 long years, most assuredly enduring dialysis and a host of other scary medical procedures and complications in the meantime.
So, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising to me that a random Starbucks barista would offer to do this. There are some amazing people in this world with astounding capacities for helping their fellow human, and I learned that first hand.
Every couple months, I speak to potential transplant recipients and share my transplant story. It’s supposed to answer their questions, ease their fears, and help them decide transplantation really is the best option. Often, the question that comes up is “How long is the wait for a kidney?” When my social worker replies, “4-5 years” a look of fear crosses each face in the room. People often complain that they don’t know anyone who is a match, and or that they don’t want to go through the humiliation and uncomfort of asking people to consider donating their organs. I quickly tell them that’s not the case. I never asked someone to get tested. Instead, just talking about the issues I was experiencing brought out the best in those around me. Made people, even total strangers, want to help. I also tell them the other amazing stories that I’ve heard; like when my aunt (who gave me her kidney) was going through testing, she encountered a man who was donating his kidney as well — but not to anyone in particular. Instead, he knew he had two kidneys and he didn’t need both, so he was going to be an anonymous living donor and give one of his to the next person on the list — whomever that may be.
That’s why stories like the Seattle barista are so important to be told. Not only does it speak to the relative ease that organ donation has become — easy enough to make a total stranger sign up to give her kidney to someone in need — but it also shows the astounding kindess that is possible among us. And in a time when we are losing connections to our neighbors and our community, and further insulating ourselves inside our own bubbles, it’s crucial to see how important those outside ties are to our well-being. You never know which of those neighbors will save your life.