Back in the day there were the 49ers, those tough old bastards who clawed gold from the earth, with their bare hands and crude explosives. Today, there are the 56ers, who donate blood with sanitary needles, comfy barca-loungers and pretty phlebotomists, every 56 days.

 The facts, baldly stated, are these: there is a chronic shortage of blood for transfusions. Despite this, only about 1% of the country donates blood. When they do, it is at an average rate of once a year. The goal of the 56ers is to increase the blood supply by having those few who are willing to donate do so six times a year rather than once. We in the US are fortunate that we have an extensive volunteer blood supply system. In many parts of the world blood has to be drawn, usually from a family member or friend, when someone is in need of a transfusion. If none is available, well…that’s that. In other areas blood is a commodity, with donors paid by clinics and hospitals. Yet even with our wonderful American Red Cross (ARC) structure, we are chronically short of blood.

In researching blood one day I learned that scientists consider it ‘connective tissue.’ That feels appropriate and I see it that way now. In particular, when we donate blood to another person, we are powerfully connected: our blood now runs through their veins. Incredible!

I have donated blood over the years, catch-as-catch-can, since I was 15. I sold my blood once, in Athens, to pay for a few more nights at the hostel. I hit the ‘blood mobile’ at school a few times. in all I’ve racked up quite a few gallons over time, here and there. It felt important but it was always ‘when the blood mobile is here’ or ‘when I needed some cash.’ Once I happened to be in the Back Bay and I walked past the Red Cross facility on Columbus Ave. i had some time and I literally walked in to the front desk, rolled up my sleeve   and said, ‘do me,’ to the astonished receptionist. She explained that blood is not simply drawn when convenient: that there are blood drives going on all the time in many locations and that a person has to find one and sign up. I thought, what the hell? Why cant they take my blood right here at the Red Cross center? I’ll never get to one of these drives – that takes actual planning! Indeed, I did not donate again for some time.

So there it was: I  had the soul of a 56er, but not the ethic or the organization.

In recent years however, some friends and I have started to donate every eight weeks – every 56 days, to be exact, the required waiting period before one can donate again. It’s become part of who we are; what we do: every eighth Saturday is breakfast with the guys and roll up our sleeves. One of my friends calls this our “Rite To Bare Arms,” which feels very clear and true to me. This was the key: to make this a central part of life, and a fun one.  I now have the soul of a 56er and the actual practice, the ritual, to match.

I don’t know what happens to the blood, or whose life has been saved with it. I only know that, with almost no effort on my part, I have been part of saving dozens, probably hundreds, of lives. In what other way could I, a middle-aged, sedentary citizen, even find a way to do this? I don’t know, or care. I only know that my blood is now running through the veins of many people who might otherwise be dead.  I don’t know them by name, or by sight, and they don’t know me. But we are connected now by that most powerful of all connective tissues: our blood.

Dan Kempner, 2014.8.28

How did I become a 56er, one who gives blood every eight weeks?  I have tried for days, weeks to come up with the “right” answer, the “right” answer being the one which makes the subject go “ding” for readers and makes them want to do it, as well.  And, why is that? Why should I want something I write to cause more people to be repeat, or even first-time, donors?

There are obvious answers, of course. There’s always a need, a constant need, for blood. There’s a statistic that the average donor gives something like 1.7 times. And, there’s more, much more in ready supply at the Red Cross and multiple other websites. There is no dearth of information about how much the country needs donors. Any one can look it up.  I probably knew most of this, as well, before it ever occurred to me to actually donate. I don’t remember.  I do remember thinking “someone else will handle it.” I thought that, for sure. Just like how “someone else” will dial 911 when they drive by an accident.

But the truth is, I have no idea what would go “ding” for someone else. I’m not even sure what did it for me.  I saw a T-shirt recently with this sentiment printed on it: “From the outside looking in, you can never understand it. From the inside looking out, you can never explain it.”   Although, this was a slogan of uncertain provenance, unrelated with giving blood,  it expresses the essence of trying to talk with someone about donating blood even once, never mind every fifty-six days.

Once you’re doing it, you can’t imagine not doing it. You see how easily it’s been folded into your life, how you’ve made it work and how good it feels to contribute.  That’s certainly true for my journey. I gave once, for the first time in my life, a true 1st Timer, at the second annual MDI/Honyotski drive many Junes ago. I was afraid of the process, having recently had major surgery and rehab requiring many needles per day, and I was a little gun-shy. There were men all around my gurney, witnessing, supporting and helping me through it.

For some reason (and I truly do not know why), then, I found myself making appointments to donate every 56 days. At some point, I started asking other men if they wanted to come with me and have breakfast beforehand.

And, oh sure, it’s a great chance to get my blood pressure and pulse checked with regularity, and to find out my iron level, and to try and get a PR (personal record) for the time it takes to fill a bag and to have friendly competition with other men, and breakfast is always great. Sometimes there’s cool swag given away to donors, too.  And, I know it feels good to give something that will help others and I like feeling part of a bigger whole. I’m thinking of the Poet of the Yukon, Robert Service’s line in The Call of the Wild: ‘Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole’.

But, really, it’s been the accretion of many days, many drops of blood, many breakfasts and it’s simply a part of my life that I had never planned on.

Craig Jones, June 2, 2014

Only connect!” wrote E.M. Forster. “That was the whole of her sermon.”

He continues–

“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
And human love will be seen at its height.
Live in fragments no longer.
Only connect…”

I have loved that simple admonition for years. “Only connect.” Simple, sound, lifetime advice. When you don’t know what else to do, “only connect.”

We can connect in a multitude of ways, as our digital world continues to evolve. We connect at team meetings. In MDI, we take a stand for men connecting, for iron sharpening iron, for creating space for that to happen.

As Forster notes, we need “live in fragments no longer.”

Only connect.

Now, though, and further, here’s another meaning of connect.

Dan Kempner discovered, on our behalf, that blood, though a fluid, is technically a connective tissue, serving a “connecting” function, supporting and binding other tissues.

For us, hanging out in MDI, looking ahead to our annual blood drive, that’s like a hanging curve ball, begging to be hit over the Green Monstah of Fenway Park. Instead of connecting prose and passion, we’re connecting the connective nature of blood with our own connective natures and thereby “exalting both,” as Forster writes.

Only connect.

Submitted by Craig Jones


Guess how much blood we lost in Boston last year on our Patriots’ Marathon Day and in the aftermath.

That’s how much blood we need to keep giving and then some…

Join us on August 16, 2014 for the 56ers Blood Drive for Life in Dedham, Danvers and Worcester, MA, as well as Manchester, NH and other locations throughout North America.

You can even  give blood at a center near you and just let us know its for the Blood Drive for Life.

You can even continue to give with those of us who donate every 56 days- The 56ers!

For 2014 that means the weeks ending August 16, October 18 and Dec. 13.

For 2015 that means February 7, April 4, then back to mid-June and  summer again!

Now, if you and I commit to this, that would be BOSTON STRONG!

BrerBloodBear, Cell: 781-367-5320 (phone or text)

Birdsong rousted me out of bed at 4:45 this morning. I have June and songs on my mind.

Nettie intoned it in “Carousel,” singing “June is a love song, sweetly sung.”

And, along with the chorus, “June is bustin’ out all over
The feelin’ is gettin’ so intense,
June, June, June
Just because it’s June, June, June!”

Ol’ Blue Eyes crooned “I like New York in June, how about you?”

It is June again and there’s a lot to like about that, including our annual blood drive, coming up on the 18th. Today, I’m thinking that the event is kind of like an MDI “love song, sweetly sung,” or that we might sing “I like blood drives in June, how about you?”

Or, maybe this is the month for vampiring and for plain, old bloodlust.

Whether you like it sweet or terrifying, it is another chance to give, quite literally, from our own, renewable bounty.

We want lots of blood and we want to help generate new donors who will, in turn, want to give every 56 days. As the late Ted Levitt said, in The Marketing Imagination, the purpose of a business, any business, is to get and create a customer. I like to think of our blood drive that way—to get and create a donor. Not just a one-timer, as great as that is, but a long-termer, continuing long after the initial event.

Are you coming? Whom have you asked to come with you and give blood?

Reading in Romeo and Juliet earlier, I found a fitting Shakespearean context for this day, as well as the predicted “near-100″ degree ones to follow, Thursday and Friday–

I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire:
The day is hot, the Capulets abroad,
And, if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl;
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring. ”

Hot days and blood stirring. Also sounds like a description of August 13 at the Dedham Red Cross Donor Center.

That will be the first date that we’re all eligible, since our Blood Drive in June.

That’s the weekend after the Pan-Mass Challenge

Have you made your appointment, yet? Are joining us?

Now’s a really good time to call 1-800-733-2767

Mi cumpleaño

Posted by MDI in Only Connect! - (Comments Off on Mi cumpleaño)

“Cumplir” (to reach) and “año” (year). To reach a year, in Spanish. Or, “Cumpleaño”– birthday. It is “mi cumpleaño,” amigos, my 58th. One of the intangible benefits of working at Whole Foods has been learning a modicum of Spanish, thanks to my Latino co-workers.

Today I will observe mi cumpleaño, and I will do so as a celebration of life. My own life, and life also in the largest sense. Celebrate, both in the abstract and the particular.
It occurred to me that we have also almost completed a year since our last blood drive also being held as a “Celebration of Life. It occurred to me also that we can hit this blood drive the same way we properly split wood, by “swinging through it” to the block below.

We are looking not just for a large number of pints on June 18th, but for repeat givers who will “swing through” that event and generate, on their own, future pints.
To life! L’Chaim! A la vida! À la vie! với cuộc sống! 生命 !

Submitted by Craig Jones