The Red Cross is warning of “life or death consequences” of a decreasing national blood supply – yet another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is upending donation patterns and canceling drives at churches, businesses and schools.

Community blood centers traditionally have a three-to-four-day supply on hand, but in recent months, that’s dropped to between just one and two. In some areas, hospitals are cancelling procedures. For a few hours on January 10th at the UCLA Medical Center, administrators stopped receiving patients altogether.

Blood donations are also facing a demographic challenge. Approximately 45% of donors are over the age of 50 – and older givers have pulled back in light of the pandemic out of fear of contracting the virus.

The first nationwide blood program for civilians dates back to 1948, though it wasn’t until 1970 that the donor system became all-volunteer.

Due to many reasons, not everyone is in a position to give blood – but those who can and do enjoy numerous physical benefits beyond the psychological altruistic boost it provides.

According to medical professionals, giving blood can reduce harmful iron stores, lower the risk of a heart attack, and even reduce the risk of certain cancers. One recent study even found you lose upwards of 650 calories per donation. (So go ahead and have that dessert after you give!) Just going to give blood provides the donor with something of a minor physical, which can alert them to issues with blood pressure or an iron deficiency.

Assuming there are no medical or other justifiable reasons not to, every Christian should prayerfully consider becoming a blood donor. While just under 40% of the population are eligible to give blood, just 10% actually do. Why? As a people committed to loving and serving others, selflessly giving a small part of ourselves is a very loving act that’s consistent with our Christian witness.

If you or a loved one have undergone open heart surgery, been in a severe accident or had any number of other medical procedures, you’ve benefited from the 6.8 million donations made each year.

Is being squeamish or not liking needles reason enough not to give? I don’t think so. Even those of us who regularly donate don’t like needles. Get tough. Look away and think about the individuals you’re helping. Plus, facing a fear or sacrificing a little comfort can be good for you.

Too busy? Giving blood doesn’t take much time at all. The actual donation takes between just eight and ten minutes.

Click here to find a location near you. Please consider making an appointment as soon as possible.

There’s a problem – there’s a blood shortage crisis.

As Christians, we can be part of the solution.

Photo from Shutterstock.