Feb 5 2023 By Norris Burkes

Let Your “Yes” be “Yes” and Your “No” be “No”

I know you’d never expect to see the word “hate” in a spiritual column, but I hate


I’m a sworn enemy of long questionnaires and confusing forms that require multiple yes, no or “If-yes-then …” questions.

In my world, forms are like puzzles – I can do neither. My carelessly rushed answers tend to skew the results.

If I forget to check a box, I must redo the form. My pencil slips. Loan denied.

Wrong info on my resume. Application rejected. (Or maybe elected to Congress?)

However, there’s one inquisition I’ll tolerate. It’s the 50-question health questionnaire I complete each time I donate platelets at the Vitalant blood bank. (Vitalant.org)

What are platelets?” you ask.

They are the cells circulating in our blood that bind together when they recognize damaged blood vessels. In short, they stop us from bleeding to death from a papercut.

I began donating platelets in the Air Force where our officers tended to get a lot of papercuts.

Aside from the finger-prick blood test, the worst donor moment is the insufferable questionnaire.

Since most responses are a simple “no,” I’m usually able to quickly complete the questionnaire on my smartphone.

It starts easily enough, asking me to verify current info: Last name, first, address, phone, date of birth … okay, I can do this.

Then, the medical-history questions.

“Did you eat any angry cow in Europe between 1980 and 1990?”


“Have you ever had a positive test result for Babesia? Do you have hereditary hemochromatosis?”

Uh, “no,” I think.

Next question.

“Has your doctor told you that you or a family member has Human Werewolf Syndrome or Geographic Tongue disease?


OK, I was daydreaming on that one, but when I’m asked if I’ve had any tattoos or piercings recently, I mostly answer, “No.”

However, I make regular trips to Honduras for Chispa Project, but not into the malaria-prone countryside.

The final questions always get personal, asking if I’ve made contacts in a “biblical” way.

“In the past 3 months, have you received money, drugs or other payment for sex?”

I can never say “no” fast enough. I submit my finished questionnaire and

present my clean arms for the 90-minute event.

Then, perhaps still thinking of those intrusive sex questions, I told the nurse that my wife and I were celebrating our 43rd anniversary.

“Congratulations,” she said with a questioning tone.

“Yet according to your responses, you’re saying you’ve had sex with a prostitute during the last three months.”


“Before that, then?”

“No, not before, not ever. This is my 43rd anniversary today,” I said, repeating my claim to fidelity and pure blood.

“Yes, you mentioned that. So, I assumed you mistakenly answered, ‘yes.’”

“I get in a hurry sometimes. Can’t you change it?”

With a cherub expression, I piously laced my argument with my unbroken fidelity record — all in hopes I would influence the nurse to fix my careless mistake.

Alas, I began to see that sometimes to do some good, I have to tolerate annoying things like health questionnaires.

I can’t excuse myself from doing good just because I have to do the uncomfortable. Doing good sometimes requires a precise plan with carefully considered answers.

After an hour trying to talk some sense into the computer, the nurse announced, “The computer has ‘deferred’ you, meaning we should wait until next week.”

She spoke with an insinuation that there was a proper way to say “Yes” and “No.”

And my donation was a hard “NO” go.

As a person of faith, I probably should’ve heeded the words of Jesus when he encouraged his followers to be straightforward and deliberate with their answers.

“You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’” (The Message. Matthew 5:37).

Gladly, the nurse was able to grant me a “yes” for my return the following week.


Just say “yes” for the next Chispa volunteer trip to Honduras March 12 – 19 or June 18 – 25. Learn more at https://www.chispaproject.org/volunteertrip.html

Please read past columns or purchase books at Norris’s website, www.thechaplain.net. Send comments to comment@thechaplain.net or 10556 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or via voicemail (843) 608-9715.