I'm a little sad.
April is National Donate Life month to promote awareness of organ and tissue donation. Naturally, this is a cause dear to my heart and I've volunteered to help out at a few events. When I found out that one of our local libraries would have a display in their front case for the month, I offered to contact them to see if I could put together a story hour for older kids on the topic of transplants. Of course I realized that this is perhaps not a topic best broached by a stranger with very young children, but I do assume that by 10 or 12 most kids are mentally equipped to deal with a matter-of-fact and non-gory talk about organ donation and transplants. And if they aren't, I suppose that their parents would simply not bring them. I even have several books written on the subject and aimed at kids as young as 7 or 8 (one written by a kindergarten teacher who received a heart transplant and one by a 12-year-old who received a liver transplant). Along with the story, I told the librarian that I had some songs written and performed by a girl waiting for a transplant (Haley, again
), and also some bookmarks and balloons for the kids. I wondered about the type of questions I might get, but thought I would be able to handle them in a reassuring fashion.
After a long wait to hear back from the library, they finally called me to tell me that they could not do it. The official reason given was that they could not justify staff time put into an event that might have such low turnout. When I assured her that I would be happy to do the work putting it together, she pointed out that advertising it would still require staff hours. Ahem. I thought of offering to take the 5 minutes it might take to zip off a letter or email to the paper to get it publicized, but I was beginning to realize that the staffing hours probably weren't the issue. The problem was that they didn't really want to talk about this issue, at least not with kids, even older kids. Don't get me wrong on this. I don't think that the library staff are anti-organ-donation. But it seems that, while it's OK to throw up a few signs about it, actually talking
about it is imagined to be like negotiating a minefield.
Maybe they're right, and it was a crazy idea to think that you could talk to kids about this stuff. But my daughter is going to be going to school with kids like these in a few years. I don't think it will take very long for a classmate to ask about her swollen belly or her scars dotting both arms, her neck, and outlining the strange and shifted topography of an abdomen opened and contents rearranged 5 times. And I can't help but feel that the idea of transplant still has the aura of the unnatural and taboo. Some sort of witchcraft that is miraculous in its results, but best not mentioned in friendly conversation. I would so love it if I felt like we could talk to kids about stuff like this because I fear not talking about it will leave my little girl feeling strange and excluded someday in the not so distant future.
I'll call the other library tomorrow.