I am a regular blood donor. I’ve been donating consistently for about the last five or six years (I actually can’t remember when I first started keeping regular appointments), and it’s become a routine part of my life. Every few months, I start getting calls from the Red Cross (their number always looks vaguely familiar, but not enough that I immediately pick up) as a lead up to the expiration of my ineligibility period before they finally send me an email (emails, being clearly labeled with their senders, get my attention much more easily than phone calls) that prompts me to make an appointment. This time, it just happened that I received the email a day before I was eligible to do another donation, so I was able to schedule an appointment for the very first day when they wouldn’t turn me away (it helped that I now have a smart phone and I was able to download the Red Cross’s scheduling app).
All this is to say that I really enjoy being a regular blood donor. Donating blood started as a way for me to learn to overcome my fear of needles (I’ve grown so used to it that I now watch when they put the needle in my arm every time; a few weeks ago when I got a flu shot, I was actually underwhelmed by the needle they used because I’m so used to blood work needles), and then it just became something that I do. The free snacks they give you after you’ve donated are nice, and if you happen to be donating around the holidays there’s usually some decent swag to be had as the Red Cross tries to pull in more donors (one year I got a free pumpkin pie for donating the day after Thanksgiving), but mostly it just feels like something kind to do that’s not particularly demanding. I take an hour out of my day every four months to let someone harvest an important renewable medical resource (because I typically donate double red cells instead of whole blood, they don’t let me do the usual two month donation schedule) from me.
Naturally, I understand that blood donation isn’t for everybody. Many people have medical issues or travel histories that preclude them from donating, and that’s okay. Others really can’t get over the fact that they stick a big honking needle in your arm, and that’s okay too. If you have a chance to go donate, and there’s nothing stopping you, then go do it. The Red Cross likes to tout the factoid that a single pint of donated blood can contribute to three transfusions (I’m sure this is technically true, though my understanding of transfusions is that oftentimes hospitals may go through gallons on a single patient because you just have to keep blood flowing through a living body or bad things happen, regardless of whether that blood is draining out through a hemorrhage or other severe injury), and they’ll be quick to let you know about people who survived major injuries because they were able to receive the transfusions they needed, but I think that stuff’s kind of irrelevant.
People need blood to live; when we’re not sick, we can safely provide extra blood for others; you get free snacks after you donate. It’s a good deal for everyone.