The Happiness Project

Need a Happiness Boost? Pledge To Donate Your Organs.

A friend who knows about my passionate interest in organ donation sent me a terrific new book, Larry’s Kidney: Being the True Story of How I Found Myself in China With My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride, Skirting the Law to Get Him a Transplant—and Save His Life . Part memoir, part travelogue, it’s the story of writer Daniel Asa Rose’s trip to China to help his ne’er-do-well cousin, Larry, get a kidney. Larry was on the U.S. waiting list, but it seemed clear that he might not live long enough for his turn to come, so the two headed to China. At that point in China, it was illegal for a Westerner to get a transplant (still true, I think), so they have a lot of strange adventures in trying to score an organ.

I really enjoyed the book just as a story—the difficult relationship between the cousins, the observations about Chinese culture, the unpredictable twists and turns in their quest. Also, it’s quite funny.

Larry’s Kidney also got me all worked up, yet again, about the issue of organ donation. The shortage of organs in the United States is a dire problem, and we could do so much to alleviate it if we’d all just commit to donation.

Sign up with the online registry , sign a donor card, check the box at the DMV—or just tell your family that you want to donate. If the issue should arise, they’ll be consulted, and if they know your wishes, they can speak for you.

There are two reasons that it’s important to commit to donation. The first is obvious, but the second just occurred to me. First, one donor can save and improve the lives of dozens of other people, so we should all donate, if we can—it’s a rare privilege, actually, to die in a way that permits you to be a donor.

Second, because so few people do die in a way that allows their organs to be used, it’s critical to have an enormous base of potential donors. By committing to donation, and by telling other people that you’ve done so, you help create a culture in which it’s expected that people donate their organs. These cultural expectations make a big difference. Littering, wearing seat belts, driving after drinking, smoking in restaurants … just in my lifetime, I’ve seen huge shifts in the expectations for behavior. If “everyone” signs up to be an organ donor, everyone will sign up to be an organ donor.

Now, if you have a principled reason not to donate, fine. You get a pass. But ask yourself this: If you needed a kidney, would you accept one from a donor? If your child or sweetheart needed a kidney, would you put that name on the list? If you answer yes, then do your part. Sign up yourself.

Also, if you’re concerned about the exploitation of people in other countries for their organs, you undermine the demand for those organs by committing to donation.

It’s not a principled or religious belief that prevents many people from signing up—nope, we neglect to sign up from sheer laziness or from a vague desire to avoid thinking about death. Are those good reasons to neglect to do something so easy and so important?

Maybe you’re feeling frantically busy, so you can’t volunteer at that soup kitchen, or maybe you’re feeling strapped for cash, so you can’t donate to support your local library. Here’s a good deed of enormous significance that you can do in less than a minute. Sign up now ! Tell your family! Remember, you’ll get a big rush of happiness from the knowledge that you’ve done something to help other people. Do good, feel good.

And never forget, one day you might be the person waiting for that call from the hospital. Someone reading this post right now may be inspired to sign up to donate the kidney that will save your life next year. So sign up yourself.

* A terrific online resource is Alltop . The plethora of information on the Internet can be overwhelming, and this site can help you quickly find the sites that most interest you. Dangerously addictive, however.

* Superfans, I swear, I REALLY think today is going to be the day! I know I’ve said that before, but this time I really think it’s true. Keep your fingers crossed that today (or tomorrow) the site will be ready for prelaunch. If you want to sign up to be a superfan, to help with the prelaunch my fabulous new site or to help me out in some other ways, sign up here .