Many years ago, a volunteer at Stanford Hospital got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year-old brother who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.
The doctor explained the situation to her little brother and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. He hesitated for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it if it will save Liz.”
As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as they all did, seeing the color returning to Liz’s cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?” Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to give his sister all of his blood.
Though the young boy thought he would die, he was willing to give his life to save that of his sister’s.
Tim was two years older than his brother Joe. Joe and Tim were in the martial arts and both were very dedicated. They practiced at home together and took great pride in not only their own accomplishments, but also each other’s.
A Big State Tournament was coming up in which they both wanted to attend and compete. Their parents were very supportive of both of them. They felt sad when they told Tim and Joe that they were very sorry but they didn’t have the money to send both of them to the tournament. They told them that they would have to decide who would go and who would not.
What a blow to Joe and Tim! Both had practiced and worked so hard. Tim, being the older brother, said to Joe, “You go. I’ll stay home.” Joe said, “No, you go. You have a better chance of winning a medal.” Tim said, “No I don’t. You are just as good as I am. I insist that you go.”
Their parents were so proud of their sons showing such unselfishness, that they decided they would find a way for the two of them to attend the tournament. When they told Tim and Joe that they could both go, the boys were overjoyed but then they were concerned about their parents sacrificing their money for them. Their parents assured them that they would be okay.
The 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australiahad its own story of unselfish friendship that you may have heard. I would like to repeat it here for its relevance with this month’s theme.
Esther Kim watched as Kay Poe fell to the mat in pain in aUSOlympic trials semi-final match last May against arch-rival Mandy Meloon, a match Poe managed to win to reach the finals.
With a dislocated left kneecap, Poe could not stand for her final match against Kim.
Knowing full well that Poe would have to forfeit, Kim decided to bow out of the match. Both women were in tears as the Kims helped Poe limp to the competition mat.
World Cup champion and flyweight number one Poe, 18, and Kim, 21, live five minutes from each other inHoustonand have been like sisters for the past 13 years, both training under Esther’s father Jin.
“It wasn’t like throwing my dream away. I’m just passing it over to Kay,” Kim said. “The ultimate goal in life is ultimate sacrifice and for the first time in my life I felt like a champion.”
She added, “I said that when I wake up tomorrow, when I wake up in 10 years, and I think aboutSydney, I’m not going to have any regrets and I’m going to know it was the right decision.”
Poe was candid enough when she was asked if she would do the same thing if Kim was met with a similar fate.
“Actually, to be totally honest, I can’t tell you that,” she said. “I can see the same thing happening again. Esther would still be trying to convince me and still looking out for me.”
She said she did not feel any pressure in the run-up to her first Olympics.
“I know what I’ve done to get here and I know what I have to do. If I go out there and fight my best, then I’ll be happy,” Poe said.
“If I win a medal, and I look up into the stands at Esther,” she said. “I think that would be worth a thousand words.”
No storybook ending however…
While Kim watched in the stands, Poe’s hopes for a gold medal in tae kwon do ended with a first-round loss. Then the bronze-medal hopes came to an end as well.
But while the medals got away, Kim said her sacrifice wasn’t wasted.
“I’m proud of her, win or lose,” Kim said. “She should be proud. She hasn’t let anyone down.”
In a world where most are only concerned with what they can do or get for themselves, these stories are a refreshing reminder of how things could be if others were first on our list of priorities.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Originally published December, 2000 under the title “Would You Be Willing to Do this?”