oh, the people you’ll meet

There’s a man I pass almost every day on my way to work in the morning. Typically, while I’m commuting to work I’m in another world – thinking about what awaits me at the office, what I just left at home, or one of about a million other things that could be on my mind at any given moment. I’ve done this commute so many times that I could do it with my eyes closed. And usually, I feel like I do. But for some reason one day, I happened to look up from my haze and this man caught my eye. Perhaps it was the way he was dressed – eclectic but still stylish, with dark, thick-rimmed glasses balanced atop his nose and a black fedora cocked to the side – but whatever it was, I noticed him, and I could tell he noticed me by the way our eyes met. I didn’t think much of it at the time, until the next day when I saw him again – the slightly cocked fedora, the glasses. And then the next day.

This went on for about a week until I finally got the urge to smile and say ‘Good morning’. He returned the smile and the warm wishes as if we were old friends just passing by each other in the hallway. And ever since then, we’ve had this very same exchange, at nearly the same place, nearly the same time, nearly every day – a welcomed addition to our typically absentminded commute that snaps us back to the here and now, if only for a moment.  Sometimes there will be a period of time when I don’t see him for a few days – mornings when I’m running late, if I’m sick and out of work, or if his life outside of our brief exchange pulls him elsewhere for the day. But on those mornings when everything falls into place for both of us, when no one is running late, or early, or elsewhere, it happens.

Before deciding to donate my kidney, it was as if I went through my day on auto-pilot – wake up, work out, shower, go to work, work, leave work, walk dog, eat dinner, hang out with boyfriend, go to bed, repeat. I love my life – every single thing about it – but since I’ve made this decision, I’ve felt like this is what I was meant to do. Like all the stars have suddenly aligned and everything that has happened previously has brought me to this point, to meet these people, to be on this journey.

I have made such wonderful friends in such a short time – people who have literally saved lives by donating their own kidney and who are so passionate about this cause that they continue to save lives by helping people like me to carry on what they’ve started. This network of ‘sharers’ is comprised of some of the most giving, caring, and compassionate people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. No matter what is going on in their own lives, they are always willing to drop everything to be there for someone who is forced to watch a loved one suffer; someone who is in need of a kidney; someone who is celebrating a successful transplant; someone who just wants to help in any way possible. The advice, support, and encouragement I have witnessed – and received – from these complete strangers has been so touching that my heart swells just to think about it. This incredible adventure I have embarked on has not only brought me back to living in the now, appreciating the beauty of life and how blessed I truly am, but it has introduced me to an entire world of people I never knew existed. It’s the gift of giving, giving back.

We all fall into routine. It’s easy to get lost in the blur of things if we don’t stop and look around every once in a while. But once you do, once you make the effort to wake up and see all there is around you, you’ll be surprised at what you find right in front of your face. New adventures, new friends, and new opportunities await – all you have to do is open your eyes.


‘Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.’  [Howard Thurman]


7 responses to “oh, the people you’ll meet

  • Teri Navickas

    And you have yet to experience the pure joy and gifts that will return to you throughout this process. You write so eloquently what all have or are experiencing. It’s truly an amazing group of people to which you will always belong.

    • melissaarlio

      Thank you so much, Teri, for not only your wonderful comments but for reading what I’ve written at all! I’m so anxious to become a ‘full-fledged’ member of the donor society and it’s people like you who make this experience so fulfilling!!

  • gtaniwaki

    What a lovely blog. I saw it mentioned on the Living Kidney Donors Network (LKDN) Facebook wall. I’ve added a link to it from my blog, Real Numeracy.

  • Sarah

    Melissa – great blog. I donated to a friend, who also happens to be my boss, on October 21, 2010. We have a blog going as well to document the journey, experience, etc. kidneytolive.wordpress.com. I’m really impressed by non-directed donors and really appreciate your enthusiasm! Happy New Year. Sarah

    • melissaarlio

      Sarah – first of all, congrats to you and your recipient on a successful donation!!! I’m always awed by people like you who have stepped up to save a life and inspired me to do the same!

      Second, thank you so much for reading my blog and for the kind words. Believe it or not, I’ve actually read your blog before and was so touched by your story!! It’s blogs like yours that inspired me to write my own, so thank you, from the bottom of my heart!!!

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