I am told to be careful in whom you befriend, because your friends can make you do things that you don’t necessarily want to do. The advice is true.

My friends, Lorraine Riley and Marion Bartley, have encouraged me to take my pen and light a very bright candle, instead of a very hot torches that I am sometimes known to do and to cite the continuing good works of citizens helping citizens. Lorraine has helped lung transplant candidate Cynthia Randall and Marion has helped young Alexandra Hayes, the niece of Louis Antonacci of the Como Restaurant.

As a result of what they did, today I signed the back of my driver’s license to become an organ donor. So, while I encourage people to give their blood to the American Red Cross I encourage them to give their hearts, and other parts, to Upstate Transplant Services. As shown by Lorraine, Marion and all of those who helped, we can do tremendous good while we live. But, there is a way that we can continue doing good when we have passed on.

I somewhat suspect that my religious misunderstandings caused my past resistance to being a donor. The fact that Christ gave His life so that we could live should have been reason enough for us to help humankind so that others could live. After all, what kind of examples of Christians are we if we fail to emulate Christ?

Perhaps my understanding of the Resurrection specifically blocked me. It goes back to the days of my youth when I assembled model ships and airplanes. I remember how frustrating it was for me when there was a missing piece. Even so, though the Bible teaches that our bodies will be raised incorruptible when Christ returns, I kind of wanted all of the pieces lying in the box for Him for easier reassembly. Or perhaps it was just the effects of the airplane glue that came with the model sets in those days, which may also be the reason why some people say that I am not “all there” now.

There seemed to be something so final about actually signing that driver’s license. Over the years, I must have turned it over a thousand times looking at that ominous box, saying, “Oh, some other time.” Timing is so important in our decision-making process.

I was very proud of the turnout at the Resource Center on Ninth Street for the fundraiser that took place earlier this month for Randall. Gazette reporter Dan Miner did a great job writing about it and thusly helped organizers Lorraine Riley, Marsha McWilson and others to make the event a huge success, raising more than $6,000. Both Randall and the community will be able to breath easier as a result of their efforts.

But our job is not over yet. Randall is an African-American. We African-Americans have long denied ourselves that representation that we need to fully enjoy the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am not just talking about being a part of ALL parties or boards of directors, either. We need to do more than just to give money to causes; we need to increase organ donations, too. Truly, the answer is in our hearts … and eyes … and lungs … and kidneys … and so on.

Likewise is the case of Alexandra Hayes. She is six years old and has been diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome; a rare genetic condition that causes developmental delays and neurological problems. She needed, and needs your love too, and the community responded. Alex cannot walk or talk and requires a feeding tube to eat. Despite all of this, she attends school and is a very happy child.

Marion Bartley and others, held a fundraiser at St. Theresa's Parish Center for Alexandra that assisted her family with the cost of the medical treatments that are not covered by insurance.

Alex will go to Florida to receive hyperbaric oxygen treatments and will remain in a chamber of pure oxygen that will reach her cells, thereby restoring more oxygen-rich blood flow to her brain. There was a marked improvement in her strength and cognitive skills during previous treatments.

So to volunteers like Lorraine, Marion and all of those who gave a part of themselves, I light a candle. As proven by them, and so many others, Niagara Falls is where the light of love softly thunders and flows like a mighty, refreshing river from neighbor to neighbor.

Ken Hamilton is a Niagara Falls resident whose columns appear each Friday. He can be reached at Kenhamilton930@aol.com.

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