Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A New Year's Gift: The Gift of Kidneys

On New Year's Day--The Feast of the Solemnity of Mary--I reluctantly left my warm bed for what I consider the easiest of the Holy Days of obligation to miss or er...forget about.  I was however impressed by the number of people who didn't.  When mass ended, I exited the church thinking I wasn't up for saying "hello" to the folks I knew in the congregation.  I admit, I felt strange leaving without making a personal connection until I remembered there was a special one I wanted to make. I wanted to visit the Christ child.  

I wish I could say I approached the beautiful creche at St. Dominic's Church because I was inspired by the parable that reminded me how important it is to be like a child.  I love seeing young children approach the manger with awe and wonder.  I know I felt that way many years ago. No, I went to the nativity scene after Mass because I wanted to see this infamous Baby Jesus.  
Last year, this Jesus was stolen from the manger and returned several months later on Good Friday.  He was found in the toilet of the church bathroom.  The pastor informed the community about His disappearance and return one week after Easter.  I was truly saddened by this occurrence, so it shouldn't surprise me that I was excited to see Him on this first day of 2013.

I said a prayer for peace for the new year, gazed at the Holy Family and surreptitiously took a photo.  Is this weird? I thought.  I took a few steps back quietly from the creche and saw a student's parent waiting to say "hello."  After a warm hug and holiday greeting, I asked the most generic of all questions: How are you?  Her response was none of what I expected.  

I came to learn she had a kidney transplant one month ago.  I stood in utter disbelief as she shared with me she now has two kidneys from a 5-month old child who had died (after which we shared a moment of silence).  The two, although small can act as one adult kidney.  She added that the likelihood of her body accepting the organs was low because of a pre-existing condition, but this was a perfect match.  She looked healthy and happy. What a miracle!  

I was both overwhelmed and humbled by her news. I can only imagine if I received the gift of two new kidneys after waiting on a list, after making peace with the fact that my family members were unacceptable donors and after having my body accept them, that I too would proclaim such news with equal joy.  Another miracle of health struggles and issues is that once you have one, you discover how many other people do too.  My immediate response to her was the story of another student's parent who had not received a kidney, but given one of his own.

In mid-December, USF baseball coach Nino Giarrantano spoke to my students about the need for discipline in both in the spiritual and sporting life.  It must be that discipline of selflessness that enabled Nino not only to give one of his two kidneys to his father, but to not tell any of his athletes about the impending surgery until after their championship run was complete.   I saw Nino but a month after his surgery and he too radiated joy.  A gift of life--whether given or received is like no other.
But I think of the symbolism of today.  Had I not gone to see the Christ child, I would not know her story.  This message of joy and of life was His gift to me.  And it is proclaimed in the Scriptures,  The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.   

Emmanuel. Indeed, God is with us.

Photo Credits
Nino Giarratano

Coach and Dad 
Empty Manger

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