Sunday morning was the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Blood Donors Society. As we were cleaning up after breakfast a marching band could be heard outside our window and we went to see what was happening. The marching band was leading a procession of stendard carrying participants. From all over the Valdichiana representatives of the blood donors groups came congregate and remember the loved ones lost during the wars by placing wreaths at the monuments. A bittersweet celebration which can move one to tears as these proudly altruistic individuals marched down the Via Nazionale-each banner brightly colored many lovingly hand embroidered to proudly proclaim which chapter from which town was participating in this show of solidarity to this heartfelt cause. To give to others, to take time out of busy lives to share and give a gift of life. Italy has long been a community of volunteers. The ambulance drivers, hospital volunteers, are a tradition which date to the Misericordia fraternities of the middle ages.
But it seems that people are involved in many different charity organizations. Setting up fund raising dinners for the cancer society, selling apples in the piazza to support multiple sclerosis research, hydrangeas for the child abuse hotline telefono azzurro, the rummage sales for the Caritas. As the year unfolds the piazza can host sales of gardenias, of chocolate easter eggs or ceramics, sales organized to raise money for many worthy causes.
Italy has been a nation ready to give, the victims of hurricane Katrina and the tsunami which hit Southeast Asia received millions of Euro from Italy, 2 Euros at a time when people were asked to donate via SMS . Each message sent would automatically deduct 2 Euro from the credit on the phones and be sent as a donation we were told.
As I watched the Blood donors reverse their direction after laying the wreaths and march back to the Piazza Repubblica it was easy to see the proud faces like the elderly man who marched with his two age worn hands firmly grasping his lapels. I thought about a blood donor I had met, a man in his 70's who proudly told of having made 70 donations of blood. That's at least 210 people whose lives were touched and hopefully healed due to the generosity of 1 man.
It doesn't take wars to make heroes. It only takes generosity of spirit and the willingness to give. Hats off to Everyday Heroes.