Would You Commit a Random Act of Kindness If It Took 1 Minute & Could Save 8 Lives?

In the happiness world, there’s a lot of talk about “committing random acts of kindness.”

As I wrote about in Happier at Home, I’m a bigger fan of non-random acts of kindness — but there is one random act of kindness that I absolutely believe in.

If you support organ donation, please speak up about it.

Take a moment to sign the donor registry. That way, everyone can easily know your wishes, should the need arise.

Also, let your family and friends know that you’d want to be an organ donor.  Post a message on Facebook or Twitter, send out a blast email, talk about it over dinner. If and when they had to make a decision on your behalf,  in a time of grief and shock, it would be a tremendous comfort to them to know what you would want. To make it easy to find what you wrote, add the hashtag #organdonor.

This issue is particularly close to my heart. For decades, my husband had hepatitis C, which attacks the liver (he got hep C from a blood transfusion during a heart operation when he was eight years old). Well, it turns out the liver is a very, very important organ to have.  A liver transplant was definitely a possibility for him, so I became very interested in this issue of organ donation.

By a miracle of modern science, my husband is now cured. Yes, CURED. Tears well up in my eyes, even just typing those words.  (If you want to read more about one of the happiest days of my life, go here.)

He probably won’t need a new liver, but so many other people will, or they’ll need kidneys or hearts or whatever.

It’s a rare and transcendent privilege to die in a way that allows others to live. One person can save eight lives, and improve the lives of up to fifty people.

Signing the registry, telling the people you love — these are such small, easy things to do, yet could have such tremendous consequences for so many people.

It’s a random act of kindness because we don’t know whether the chance will arise, or if it does, who will benefit. But it’s an act of kindness just to raise your hand to be identified as a willing donor.

I live in New York City, and today is the very first annual Organ Donor Enrollment Day here. Sign up, speak up, today.

Many people sign up as organ donors at the Department of Motor Vehicles. That’s great, but it may be years before you’re back to renew your license. You can sign the registry or post a comment right now.

You may help many other people — and you’ll feel great, too.

Do good, feel good.  As Montaigne observed, “These testimonies of a good conscience are pleasant; and such a natural pleasure is very beneficial to us; it is the only payment that can never fail.”

Have you signed the registry, or had a conversation about this issue?

Share this post on Facebook to tell your family and friends that you support organ donation.


  • Jenya

    I’m glad you’re writing about this. I have always believed in organ donation on principle, but stories involving conflict of interest have held me back (for example, http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/patient-awoke-doctors-errantly-preparing-remove-her-organs-141547610.html).

    Many large, well-respected hospitals have procedures in place so that the doctors and nurses trying to save one patient are not in any way involved with the patient who needs a donation. Still, I worry this isn’t true for all hospitals. While I don’t think there are any conspiracies going on, I worry about the unintentional differences in care.

    Can you point to any studies or statistics that could alleviate some of these concerns? FAQs on DMV-type websites don’t really reassure me. I have to assume I’m not the only person who wants to help but remains concerned, quite possibly out of ignorance.

    • gretchenrubin

      There are many safeguards and procedures in place to make sure that patients on both side of a donation get the best care and are represented by different medical teams.

  • Anna

    Did you know: in many European countries (Spain for example) it works the other way around: everybody is an organ donor, unless you specifically opt out. The French government has now also voted for this system, but it will only start taking effect in 2017.

  • Sara Constantakis

    I’m glad your husband is recovered, Gretchen, and thank you for promoting organ donation. A few years ago, a close friend of mine contracted a deadly virus and had an emergency liver transplant, which saved her life. I’m extremely thankful to her donor and everyone else who gives this gift of life.

    • gretchenrubin

      Such happy outcome!

  • Julie

    I signed up after reading your post in January.

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific, thank you! that makes me so HAPPY.

      • Julie

        I’m sure you know plenty of people who did the same, but I did want to let you know (and to make you that much happier!).

  • Penelope Schmitt

    Done, long ago. I have one friend who is living a good life several years on after a double lung transplant for COPD. I lost a friend who died after a heart transplant, but she was the person who convinced me that this was important to do. I can’t think of a better way for me to keep making a difference!

  • Loner

    I am soooo happy for you. I’m sorry you hade to go through those hard times