Everyday Humanist Hero: Alex Arnett

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Everyday Humanist Heroes, theHumanist.com’s new regular series, celebrates our movement’s group organizers, activists, support staff, and volunteers making a difference in their communities. Who do you want to celebrate?

Imagine what could happen if someone set off a chain of events that would positively affect four different families in four different parts of the country. This is exactly what Alex Arnett from North Carolina was able to accomplish this past summer, making him a natural for our Everyday Humanist Hero series.

Alex is a humanist, an altruist, and an atheist. He is a member of Triangle Freethought Society (an affiliate of the American Humanist Association) in North Carolina, and a member of the Effective Altruism movement, which seeks to use evidence and reason to do the most good in the world.

This past summer, Alex pushed the boundaries of altruism when he donated his kidney. While this is a fairly common procedure,  happening daily in hospitals across the world, the circumstances surrounding this kidney donation were anything but common.

Alex Arnett

According to data published by The National Kidney Foundation, most living kidney donors know the person that will receive their kidney. Not Alex! He decided to donate his kidney to a complete stranger. And why did he do it? He simply heard it was a thing that he could do. He had no personal story about kidney disease or connection to anyone that needed a kidney. He just decided this was the right thing to do if he was going to call himself a humanist and altruist.

While this is a truly remarkable and kind act on its own, Alex took it a step further. Make that three steps further. He decided to have his donation managed by a kidney paired exchange program and kicked off a chain of four kidney donations.

Here’s how it worked. Alex donated his kidney to someone who needed one. The person that got Alex’s kidney had a friend or family member who was willing to donate their kidney, but ended up not being a match for them. So, when the first patient got Alex’s kidney, their loved one donated to another patient, who had a loved one who donated to another…and so on. After all was said and done, four people in desperate need ended up getting kidneys, all thanks to Alex’s act of generosity.

Alex is a great example of how we can live our values every day. We don’t have to do something quite as courageous as Alex, but there are always opportunities to take actions that will have a positive impact on those in our community. If you pay attention, you may find a chance to have a positive impact on the people around you.