People Are Awesome: Paying It Forward With Kidneys Saves 30 Lives

A chain of people donating organs to total strangers started with one kind Buddhist in Riverside, California.

Last month, we told you about South Carolina's Corner Perk, a coffee shop where customers "pay it forward" by donating money to pay for other customers' drinks. Those customers then donate their own many to pay for other customers' drinks, and so on. The pay-it-forward model is not new, of course, and a cup of coffee at Corner Perk is a relatively small expense. But the idea of selfless giving is powerful in and of itself, and can change lives if applied to the right problem. One month later, selflessness similar to that found at Corner Perk has resulted in probably the biggest and most important pay-it-forward chain in history.

In August 2011, Riverside, California resident Rick Ruzzamenti donated one of his kidneys to an anonymous stranger in Livingston, New Jersey, out of the kindness of his heart. Ruzzamenti, a Buddhist, says he was inspired by hearing a friend's story of donating to one of her friends. When the anonymous man's niece, who had originally wanted to donate to her uncle but wasn't a match, found out what Ruzzamenti did, she decided to pay it forward by donating one of her kidneys to a stranger. From there, the chain was off, and seven months later, a total of 30 people have donated kidneys to strangers thanks to Ruzzamenti's initial kindness. The most recent recipient was Donald Terry, a 47-year-old man in Joliet, Illinois, who was told he'd have to wait for upwards of five years to have a transplant. Naturally, when a stranger stepped forward to help Terry out, it was quite a welcome surprise.

Despite the fact that his altruism may very well have saved several lives—67,000 people die annually from kidney failure in the United States—Ruzzamenti says he doesn't see anything too special about what he did. "People think it’s so odd that I’m donating a kidney," he says he told a transplant coordinator after undergoing a series of mental and physical evaluations. "I think it’s so odd that they think it’s so odd."


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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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