Sunday, 15 January 2017

Finding unexpected love over fishy crackers

In the United States today is the day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children.. I wrote this post a year ago this week.


In recognition of the March for Life event in Washington D.C. today, January 22, I thought I'd post a reflection I wrote after I attended our local Right to Life rally in the spring of 2015.  

That day confirmed in me that so much of the pro-abortion arguments are founded in fear.   And the heartbeat of the pro-life movement is the trust that God is good. God loves and bestows dignity on every person He ever created and He providentially cares for us all.  The only way I know of overcoming frightening (albeit temporal) circumstances that seem overwhelming, paralyzing is knowing in your bones that God is love and ultimately love conquers evil, it conquers fear.

And if you are part of the slim percentage of people who are going to a March for Life to berate and hurl hatred at pro-choice protesters, please stay home, will you?  Because your vitriol won't soften hearts. Your love will.  I sadly know too many broken young women who have had abortions at the insistence of their babies' pleading fathers... 'men' who begged them to abort because "my mother is Catholic and she'd kill me if I got 'some girl' pregnant." I knew too many boys in my Catholic high school who would coolly claim that they would push their girlfriends down the stairs if they ever became pregnant so as to cause miscarriage.   I know, and you know, that this is horrific anathema to Christianity, but do those pro-choicers know it? Or is this disfigured and hateful image the only face of the Body of Christ they've seen?  I will never for a second try to excuse abortion but I do recognize how truly lost and convoluted so many people are in our individualistic, dog-eat-dog world and I feel aching compassion for these women as well as for their children. Love them, care for them, point them to the Father whose love surpasses everything.
Finally, I know that a lot of people who were planning to attend the March this year in D.C. had to change their plans as a massive snowstorm moves through the region and local officials declared states of emergency and implored people to stay indoors.  So, if that includes anyone who is reading this:  God love you for your desire to show up despite the inconvenience and hardship of the storm! I imagine that a lot of you feel discouraged, perhaps that you failed in not showing up. I offer this reflection in part to offer encouragement that God is in control, and in His Providential love He will touch and change hearts in ways that we can't imagine....Especially when the circumstances change in a heartbeat...

My son M. and I joined the grade 4-8 students in Fredericton for the Right to Life rally/March for life.  M. (3 years old) and I had left the rest of the group to run around the lawn, look for a balloon, explore the crowd as only a three-year-old can do and finally found some steps to sit/climb/play/slide on. We were on the far left of the crowd and our group was on the far right, near the speakers. So here we were standing off to the side when suddenly a group of university-aged women appeared with signs and bullhorns, screaming “you say no choice, we say pro-choice” and waving signs with clothes hangers taped to them. I wasn’t sure if I should move or stay but I felt deeply, stay, love them.  So M. was covering his ears but he wasn’t crying or upset. He just kept saying “They are so loud!” So I pulled him into my arms started praying the Rosary out loud, which over the bull horn was probably not audible- I could barely hear myself - and I hoped it would help M. because he loves to help me pray. And I kept looking at the girl with the bullhorn and then down at my son with his ears covered and she kept looking at him from the corner of her eye and would hesitate before shouting into the bullhorn again.  

Then, just as suddenly as they had started, they stopped literally at our feet and lay on the ground.

While they were shouting M. was covering his ears but he didn’t seem too worried, but now he became really concerned as he looked at these girls that were lying silently on the ground, eyes closed, with cardboard cut-outs of tombs lying across their bodies.

“They are dead?”
“No, they’re okay sweetheart.”  
“Are they sleeping?”
“No, they are pretending to sleep.”
“Why are they lying down Mommy?”
“Because they are sad.”
“They are sad?”
“Yes my darling, so we have to be very nice to people when they feel sad.”

He had the most concerned look on his little face and started looking at them and at me like he was thinking of what to do next.

I asked: “Do you want to share your snack with them?”
“I can give them my goldfish (crackers)?” His face lit up and he scrambled to retrieve his snack.
‘Yes, you can ask if the ladies if they want some.” So he then walked over to a couple different women and offered them crackers, they all, oohed and aawed over his sweetness.
Some said yes, some said no thank you. - They all responded lovingly. (The kid knows how to win over a crowd!)
One of the protesters got off the dirty pavement and leaned up against the building. I overheard her say she felt sick to the stomach. M. heard it too.
“You are sick?” “You have tummy ache?” he asked her.Everything in me was now shouting “LOVE HER!” So, I kicked into mother mode.
“Can I help you? Do you want something to eat? Can I get you a bottle of water? Do you need to sit down?” She said no. Then quietly M. played on the runner of the steps between the two of us, and I held his hand to make sure he didn’t fall, and she reflexively would reach out to help him if he was leaning too far off the steps on her side towards her. I said:
“This is stressful, isn’t it. Scary, huh?” She nodded.
I then told her I used to be her, and I told her some stories of women I love so much who have deeply mourned their abortions and how much pressure was put on me to abort this beautiful boy with the goldfish crackers because a blood test said he was going to have Down Syndrome.
And she said, with tears running down her face:  “yes, everyone has a story.”  “Yes,” I agreed.

Then, after another moment of silence I looked into her beautiful watery blue eyes and said:  “I just want you to know that I know you are here because you care and you think that you are doing the right thing. These people here, we don’t hate you guys. There are so many women out there (pointing to the crowd) who are here because they have had abortions and they don’t want anyone to go through that pain. None of us hate women who have had abortions. We don’t.  We’re not here saying that at all.” Then just silence and a sad smiley look and then M. bolted across the lawn and I had to leave to follow him.  

Then as we meandered around the lawn and I marvelled at what had just happened, and later as we marched I overheard a handful of conversations by perplexed pro-lifers who were upset with the protesters and in some cases being rude and here I am begging and pleading in both official languages:
“These girls, they don’t know... they think they are right... they think the world is bad, because they don’t know that God loves them. They are scared and they think no one cares so the best thing to do is to abort. If they knew God loved them, really, really loved them,  and that people care and truly want to help them, they would not think that aborting their babies was compassionate. YOU MUST LOVE THEM RIGHT NOW. If you don’t show them God’s love right now, who will? They have to go home tonight confused by how much love we showed them. PLEASE! PLEASE! When you go by, smile at them with love.”

As we marched by and the protesters screamed SHAME at the top of their lungs and I was getting nervous (we were walking on the street and I kept thinking someone could drive into the crowd because they are angry - it happened to my friend who was walking a picket line in Ontario about ten years ago) and I am really trying to stay calm because the kids in our group were with us and were getting really upset and then the woman behind me calmly said to her daughter, “remember when Jesus was carrying his cross? Remember that he prayed for the people who were mocking him?”  and WHOOSH! Those words just completely calmed my racing heart.  

And I looked into the eyes of the women M. and I shared crackers with earlier and they looked away but weren't shouting with the others and the girl with the bullhorn (no longer had the bullhorn) kept looking back at me so I said sincerely, “I hope you have a good day” and she paused and looked really shocked and sputtered, “Well, I hope you don’t.” And I nodded and smiled and said “thank you.”  and kept walking...and shaking... and feeling overwhelmed with love.
Totally crazy, unexpected love.
Deo gratias

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