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From the desk of NY State Senator Jack Martins: December 7, 2011

The True Spirit Of the Season

 It started even earlier this year. No sooner were Halloween decorations put away than began the blitz of drugstore Santas and catalogs from retailers eager to seize the first Christmas dollar. I happen to be a big fan of Thanksgiving so I find it a pretty sad state of affairs when people rush away from their turkey dinners to stand in bone-crushing lines for a flat screen TV. I try to remember that everyone marches to their own drum, but alas, it seems our venerable holiday might soon become known as “the day before Black Friday.”

The news that day was dark indeed. A near-riot broke out as consumers battled for two-dollar waffle irons while elsewhere parking-lot marauders robbed shoppers of their goods. In one store, bargain hunters stepped over a fallen heart-attack victim to continue their spree but the year’s most bizarre performance belongs to the consumer who pepper-sprayed other patrons to get an Xbox 360.       

It’s enough to rattle the convictions of even the staunchest optimists as we wonder where the true spirit of the holidays has been hiding. I’m happy to report that I think I came across it with some inspiring local news.

A selfless act by a gentleman in our community, whom I’ll call Rob, was recently brought to my attention by his family and friends. It’s especially telling that they did so in clandestine fashion as he personally insisted that no fuss be made about it. Rob has lived here in the Seventh Senate District with his wife and children for a number of years and has served as a volunteer firefighter for the last three. But his firefighting isn’t the catalyst for this story.  Rob is saving a life in a very different way.  

You see, Rob had listed himself as a donor on the bone marrow registry for more than 16 years and this past November he was contacted about a match. The person was suffering from leukemia and, after being treated with radiation and chemotherapy, was finally ready for a bone marrow transplant. All Rob was told was that his match was a 43-year-old woman who desperately needed his help.  Without questions or deliberation, he underwent a lengthy testing process and on November 30th, had just about two quarts of bone marrow extracted from his pelvic bone while under general anesthesia.

Understand that it is extremely rare to match a non-relative recipient, but fate put Rob in the position to help save a life. Although he never even met the woman and knew nothing about her he was willing to go through a painful procedure to give her a second-chance on life. As I write this column, he is recovering from the procedure and I ask for your prayers for both he and his match. She’s a fighter, he’s a hero and their story is indicative of the goodness that can be found in our hearts, rather than on sale.

I think there’s something to be said about the character of those who work or volunteer as emergency service workers, officers and firefighters. Many of them have conditioned their minds for great sacrifice well beyond the usual circumstances they face.  We’re fortunate for that so if you see one, why not offer a simple “thank you” for all they do?  I would think they’d like to hear it, especially at this time of year. 

Whether you love the hustle and bustle of the season or you find it maddening, most will agree that it’s easy to let it distract us. There’s certainly a place for all the shopping, decorating, and parties so long as we remember that they exist to help us celebrate greater things, not obscure them. Just look around for stories like Rob’s and you’ll know that the greatest gifts are ones that can’t be bought.

P.S. Please visit www. marrow.org and discover how you can save a life.