I can’t remember where I found this story, but it sums up a particular characteristic of donors…

A man goes into a pet shop looking for a parrot.

“I want a parrot that can talk,” he says, “I don’t care what he looks like, but he must be able to talk.”

Picture 1
The shopkeeper recommends an African Grey.

“The only way you know if a parrot can talk is if he can actually say a few words. Luckily this chap here is already a proficient talker. He’s yours for £400.”

The money is handed over and the customer goes home, happily trying to get his new feathered friend to say his first words. A few days later he’s back. And he’s complaining about the complete silence emanating from the bird.

“You said this parrot was a great talker. He’s not said a bloody word. I want my money back.”

The shop owner can’t believe this. He nips off to his library at the back of the shop, pulls down a couple of dusty old volumes. After a quick read, he make his pronouncement.

“It must be bored. You’re not giving him enough attention. A parrot has got to be stimulated if it’s going to talk. I’d recommend buying a few toys. I’ve got a couple of wobbly parrot toys that you can clip to his perch. He’ll think these are friends and will be chatting away in no time.”

Satisfied, the owner goes off with the toys. But within a day he’s back – and he’s not happy.

“I think you’ve sold me a duff one here. Those toys didn’t make any difference whatsoever. I’ve not had a single word out of him.”

The shop keeper consults his books, shakes his head and makes a new suggestion.

“Try a mirror. He’s obviously a bit too clever for the toys to work. The mirror will have him nattering away.”

The owner grudgingly agrees to try the mirror. But the next day he’s back with the bird lying on his back at the bottom of the cage – stone cold dead.

The shop keeper can’t believe it.

“That bird was in fantastic condition when I sold him to you. He’s the best talker I’ve ever had. Didn’t he say anything at all?”

“Well,” says the owner, “that’s the funny thing. Just before he fell of his perch he did say the one word…


Just like with parrots, it’s dangerous to guess what a donor needs. But with a donor, you can take advantage of their fantastic communication skills and ask them – in person, on the telephone, on line or by writing to them.

A donor won’t die if you choose not to, but without the constraints of a cage, they are likely to fly off somewhere else instead if you guess wrong.

Photo: Rebecca K O’Connor