It’s 6:00 am and the alarm rings on a cold, dark January morning. Before my feet hit the ground, I fully experience the decadent warmth of my bed. We’ve all arranged to take the day off. It’s a school day, but we’ve told the teachers that the kids won’t be there today. I hit the snooze and contemplate sleeping in. We could all use a day of rest. We won’t be missed. I inhale that thought in and with a big exhale, I reply, “Not today,” and my feet hit the ground running. It’s a day to march for those who can’t.
The kids spring out of bed with enthusiasm. Not because they understand the art of praying with your whole body, mind, and spirit, but because it’s a no-school day, they get to pack their favorite snacks, and take a bus ride to our Nation’s Capital. They forget, for the moment, that their legs will grow weary as they hike up Capital Hill after suffering the crowds, the bitter cold, and the long lines for the port-a-potties that are a vision of hell if I ever saw one. They will experience the power of suffering for others.
It’s 7:45 and we board the packed bus of smiling faces. We say our hello’s to familiar faces from marches past and we meet new marchers as we find our seats and get settled. The cheerful chatter of the passengers comes to a hush when we hear the contemplation of the Joyful Mysteries of the life of Christ come over the bus speaker system. And, we begin to pray together. And, as the rosary is complete, the hum of happy passengers continues. This is the integrated life of prayer that I want my children to experience.
We arrive at the Mall and are, in an instant, surrounded by thousands of marchers moving in one direction and we join the march to hear today’s pro-life leaders welcome us and remind us why we are here and why we have been coming for 43 years. And, I blink back to my first march as an 8th grader. It was a much smaller gathering and with my limited life experience, I did not comprehend the power of my participation. And, I certainly did not have the support of my peers. Fetal development was not understood as it is today. Thanks to scientific advances, we can no longer ignore the fact that there is a developing baby hanging in the balance. And, the message I received as a young woman, both subtle and blatant, was that my fertility was a disease that needed to be controlled if I were going to have power and achieve my dreams. And, abortion was necessary for the fulfillment of women. It would be many years before many of my peers would awaken to the lies and join me. I return to the present moment and inhale all the enthusiasm and marvel at the robust cheers of the young men and women surrounding me. This is THE pro-life generation.
This year, for the first time in the history of the march, the Vice President was a featured speaker. This meant that we had yet another obstacle. Security was increased and we could not carry a back pack. So, we all had to stuff our pockets with water bottles and snacks. “Life is winning!” we heard him exclaim over the loud speakers. He also reminded us of our duty to be generous and compassionate and gentle as he said, “We will continue to win the hearts and minds of the rising generation if our hearts first break for young mothers and their unborn children.” My children will learn that to be pro-life comes with a responsibility to help those who are less fortunate.
To my surprise, I also learned at the march that the Second Lady, Karen Pence, is an ardent advocate of art therapy. I happen to be a practicing Art Therapist with my own Art Therapy business. What are the chances that my two passions, being pro-life and practicing art therapy, would get so much national attention on this day?! My heart skipped a beat. It is because of my pro-life passion that I pursued a career that would help children and families in need. I am heartened to know that the profession of art therapy will have a spotlight shined on it by Karen Pence. And, I am excited to discover how this experience will lead my children to a life of service someday. That is my prayer.
As the speeches come to a close, we begin our march toward the Supreme Court. The kids begin to complain about their discomforts. My 6 year old is certain that his legs will fail. My husband lifts him and whispers in his ear, “You are a hero, Joseph! You can do it!” He also reminds him of the all you can eat buffet we will stop at on the way home. And our little pro-life hero gives his dad a squeeze and is back to marching. The older girls are shivering. We make sure everyone is zipped up, hats and gloves on, fully hydrated, and we continue our march. There is so much enthusiasm and joy in the crowd and that keeps us going. When we reach the top of the hill, we look back for a moment and cannot believe the endless throngs of people coming up the hill. As we turn the corner towards the Supreme Court, snowflakes fall for just a moment and the crowd erupts into jubilant cheers.
It’s nearly 4:00 and the sun begins to set on this historic day. My kids and their cousins are now skipping, giggling, and singing as we make our way to Union Station. No sign of exhaustion and no crankiness. Just banter about the events that they have just witnessed and participated in. They are all smiles. This is why I am choosing to raise the next generation of pro-life leaders.
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Shiela is a widow and mother of five children from elementary to High school. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and art therapist but her primary vocation is to be a mom. She discovered apologetics while cruising around social networks and finding her faith under attack. She approaches apologetics with humor and everyday stories and hopes to ignite a fire of joyful catholic culture that will spread throughout the world. In the wake of her husband's death, she will be sharing her grief journey.