A Kind And Generous Heart When Christine Little's teenage son had a heart transplant, she realized some other young person was dying just as her son was getting a chance to live. That selfless gift, and what her son did with it, shaped a lifelong belief for Little.
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A Kind And Generous Heart

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A Kind And Generous Heart

A Kind And Generous Heart

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(Soundbite of This I Believe montage)

Unidentified Man #1: I believe in mystery.

Unidentified Woman: I believe in family.

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in being who I am.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in the power of failure.

Unidentified Man #4: And I believe normal life is extraordinary.

Unidentified Man #5: This I believe.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

For our This I Believe essay today, we hear from Christine Little, a circulation clerk at the public library in Bettendorf, Iowa. Bettendorf, like several other towns around the country, chose "This I Believe" as the one book residents were asked to read last year. Everyone was also encouraged to contribute essays. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: Once she decided to write an essay, Christine Little said her task was both easy and difficult. Easy because she knew what she wanted to say, difficult because it was painful to say it. Here is Christine Little with her essay for This I Believe.

Ms. CHRISTINE LITTLE: I learned my belief from my son. I believe in selfless giving. Eight years ago my 13-year-old son, Dustin, became very ill with a heart enlarged to double its size. The medical term, as unimportant as that is to a grieving mother, was cardiomyopathy. For several months Dustin lived on life support as we were forced to stand by and watch him wither away.

While his friends were out playing baseball, flirting with girls and sleeping in their own beds, my son was in a hospital bed, attached to a machine that kept his heart beating. As a mother, my first reaction after crying was anger, and then I played the bargaining game. Take my life for his, Lord. I've lived my life but he still has so much to do. People all around me were praying for a heart to become available, but it made me so angry and confused because I knew for that to happen, someone else's child would have to die. How could anyone pray for that?

I still remember so clearly the morning we got the call that there was a heart. As we stood in Dustin's hospital room watching them prep him for surgery, we experienced the true definition of bittersweet. His dad and I, seemingly in unison, realized that at the precise moment that we were standing there with so much hope and so much love, another family somewhere was saying goodbye. We knelt down together and cried, and we prayed for them and we thanked them for giving such a selfless gift.

To our amazement, just 10 days later, Dustin got to come home for the first time in many months. He had turned 14 in the hospital and at such a young age, he had received a second chance at life. Over the next two years he got to go to high school, learn to drive and had his first girlfriend. He got to spend time with his family and be in the great outdoors, which was where he truly loved to be. He put his brand new heart to good use volunteering at the homeless shelter and helping the elderly. He also became a very devoted Christian young man.

Dustin's new heart failed him when he was 16. A tragedy, yes, but we have to see it as the miracle it was. We received two precious years with him that we would never have had without organ donation. We have more pictures, more memories and a great satisfaction in knowing that he was able to experience some of the most exciting times and milestones in a teenager's life.

When he died, as difficult as it was for us, we knew that it would be Dustin's wish to give back. His eyes went to someone who wanted to see, someone who, perhaps, had never seen the faces of the family they loved so dearly. I believe that one day I will look into the face of someone else's son or daughter and I will see those sky blue eyes looking back at me, the evidence of selfless giving.

ALLISON: Christine Little with her essay for This I Believe. Little said that even though it's hard for her to talk about this subject it will be worth it if, after hearing her, a single person chooses to become an organ donor. We hope you'll consider sending us your essay about personal conviction. Visit npr.org to find out more. For this I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

HANSEN: Jay Allison is co-editor with Dan Gediman, John Gregory and Viki Merrick of the book "This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women."

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