My son Lukas is really into everything Thomas the Tank Engine these days, and his grandma recently bought him a DVD involving Thomas (and his choo-choo buddies) called ‘Tale of the Brave.’

There’s a song near the end of the movie that includes a line that’s stuck with me …

You can be scared/And still be brave

Now, I’ve absorbed that general sentiment before, but this particular earworm was lingering in my head as that dreaded needle punctured my arm last week.

Altruism, engage!

Was I scared? Hell, yes.

Did I go through with it anyway? Yeah, I did.

There’s something life-affirming about a moment like that, when you battle through the fight-or-flight instinct to neither fight nor take flight. Our primal urges (like avoiding injury) are strong, but we can override them with healthy doses of rationality and willpower.

Unfortunately, overcoming fear once doesn’t mean the sledding will be smooth from here on out. A few hours after donating a pint, I thought about doing it again in a few weeks… and that same old fear shook me again.

That’s a hard reality to face, especially after the pride of accomplishment fades away. Did I accomplish anything but a one-off?

My hope is that donating blood becomes something I do more often, but until I go back a few times in a given year, I won’t consider my hypodermic demons to be exorcised.

In short, there’s much work to be done.

On the bright side, another aspect of my life might make additional trips to the blood bank a bit less daunting. I’m a Christian, so I’m currently observing the season of Lent, the six-week run-up to Easter that’s supposed to inspire reflection on how believers can be better spiritually.

(Note: Other religions have similar seasons and/or principles, but I’m simply speaking from my own experience. Feel free to relate your own!)

Anyway, one of the pillars of Lent is something called ‘almsgiving,’ which essentially means giving to others out of virtue, either materially or with one’s time and talents. To put my preacher hat on for a moment, much of the focus around Lent is on giving up something out of self-sacrifice, but the giving of oneself is supposed to be just as important.

How It Works!

How Do-Goodery Works

So as I sat in that chair at Vitalant last week, I found myself a cheerful giver, even as my nerves jangled and my palms moistened. There’s something about being a part of something bigger that helps you forget your own problems, irrational fears, or daily stressors.

And if I may tweak Thomas and Friends, not only can you be scared and brave at the same time, I think you must be scared in order to be brave, just as there is no true giving without a sense of sacrifice.

In that way, I’m grateful for fears, because without them, there can be no bravery.

***

So as we look forward, Hot Peppers and Giving Blood are in the ‘Scaring Matt’ rear-view mirror. What comes next?

I guess you’ll just have to tune in next Friday to find out…