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Abortion Deirdre Ink Slingers Respect Life

Unity and Name Calling Within the Pro-Life Movement

Unity and Name Calling

In so many ways, the pro-life movement seems to be winning. We are passing multiple pro-life laws at the state level, attacking legalized abortion from many different angles. Abortion facilities are closing all over the country, while new pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and pro-life women’s health clinics are popping up all over. We’re helping mothers in need, we’re reaching the youth (who are more likely to be pro-life than previous generations) and we’re helping abortion facility workers leave the industry in record numbers. We’re defunding Planned Parenthood and outlawing late-term abortion. Science is on our side too, with amazingly detailed sonograms, successful in-utero surgeries, and premature birth survival rates increasing everyday.

 

As Vice President Mike Pence declared at the 2017 March for Life, “Life is winning in America”.

 

So why does it often seem like we’re losing? I think one of the biggest obstacles to pro-life successes is our pro-life infighting. This is not only counter-productive to accomplishing our end goal of abolishing abortion, but it’s also scandalous.

 

There are all kinds of disagreements within the pro-life movement: should we take an incremental approach, or a complete abolition of abortion approach, or something in between? Should we focus on the unborn baby, or the mother, or on abortion facility regulations? Should we pass laws we know are constitutional and will be upheld in court, or should we push the envelope and pass laws that are currently unconstitutional, hoping the Court will rule differently and uphold them? Should we pass laws that contain exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the mother? Can one be a pro-life feminist or are the two mutually exclusive? Should we use images of aborted children in front of abortion facilities? What is the best approach to sidewalk counseling? Should we include other issues under the banner of being pro-life – euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and cloning usually count, but what about contraception, human trafficking, the death penalty, war, gun control, etc? What issues come under the umbrella pro-life? Who decides? We even argue over langue: abortion facilities or clinics or mills? Pregnancy resource centers or crisis pregnancy centers? The list goes on and on and on.

 

Discussions and disagreements about policy, about language, about our approach to this issue, have their place when they are constructive, and indeed can help us continue to evolve and move forward more effectively. The problem is when we let our policy disagreements turn personal. When we start attacking each other, we have lost sight of what we should be focusing on, and the enemy has won. I have seen this happen a lot in the pro-life movement: calling those we disagree with “fake pro-lifers”, as if there really were such a thing, or even worse, calling pro-life advocates “pro-abortion” just because you disagree on approach (this happened to me just a few weeks ago!). There have been recent discussions about who is pro-life enough and others have stated the need to “purg[e] the movement of the cancers” of those in the pro-life movement who they disagree with.

 

This is outrageous. We must stop this childish name calling, these petty personal attacks. We must stop putting each other down. I’m reminded of the old childhood adage: “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Let’s apply this to others in the pro-life movement, even those we disagree with. Yes, lives are at stake, yes, we urgently must end abortion. I absolutely agree with that, but we won’t end it any faster by name calling and putting other pro-lifers down. Disagree and discuss policies, but don’t attack people.

 

Certainly, there are problematic approaches in the pro-life movement. There are absolutely anti-Catholic groups, groups approving of violence or breaking the law, and groups that are advocating for policies that will set the movement back. I’m not naive enough to think all approaches are equal and deserve the same consideration. Harmful groups and policies should be called out as such and avoided, but preferably without the personal attacks.

 

We fight so hard for the unborn because we recognize their human dignity, because we know they are made in the image of God and worthy of protection. So why can’t we see that Imago Dei in our fellow pro-life warriors? What kind of pro-life witness are we being to those who support abortion, if we claim to love the unborn child, the least among us, but we have hatred in our hearts for others within our own movement? What kind of example are we setting when we say ‘love them both’ but we can’t even love those fighting this good fight along with us?

 

There is, of course, a sense of urgency in the pro-life movement, as there should be. Children are dying. I don’t want abortion to be legal for one more second, forget another day or week or month while we debate approaches and tactics and language. But it is the law of the land, and we must find ways to work within the system and around the system, as so many have been doing. Calling names, belittling others, and misrepresenting facts is not of the Lord. That is not the way He is calling us to fight this battle, and it is not the way we will win. We cannot win the rights of one group by dehumanizing those we disagree with. This goes for those who support abortion, those who perform abortions, those who have had abortions, and yes those pro-lifers we disagree with on policy and tactics. Please, before you call another pro-lifer ‘fake’, or take part in personal attacks and putting others down, stop and say a prayer for them. Then ask yourself: is what I’m about to say kind, true, and necessary? Will it help bring awareness to the humanity of the unborn, or only lead to dehumanizing others? As adults, we should be able to have healthy debates about different policy approaches without name calling, distorting the truth, and putting others down. That doesn’t help the unborn babies and it certainly doesn’t help our souls.

The late, great, Justice Antonin Scalia once said, “If you can’t disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends, get another job, for Pete’s sake,”. While he was referring to disagreements on the interpretation of law, I think this applies to those in the pro-life movement as well. Debate policies and approaches. Leave the name calling and personal attacks out of it.

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Ink Slingers

Green Bean Benevolence

 

“Make sure you take time to connect with the people you’re working for,” our parish priest advised us as we prepared to depart for our home improvement mission work deep in the hollers of Kentucky. We had our project lists in hand, our tools at the ready and our trucks loaded with supplies. All 22 of us were eager to dive in to the manual labor required over the next five days. But our pastor wisely counseled us to put down our hammers and paintbrushes and invest in the relationships with the homeowners we were serving as well.

That advice paid off for me. In green beans.

I am blessed and I know it. I have money to pay our bills and even put some away for the future. I have shelter. I have clothing. I have health and family and friends. While I do not have what anyone would consider a wealthy or high-class lifestyle, and I do have my own particular life challenges, I want for nothing. Nothing. And I have always been taught to share what God has so generously given to me through tithing, donations and volunteering. For these opportunities I am extremely grateful. But over the past year or so, my giving had started to become too planned and programmed. It was a duty that had found its way into my checkbook software program and was mindlessly and wordlessly completed. And every once in a while (*winces*) I would catch myself “patting myself on the back” for my focused attention to that almsgiving. Yep, I got a little prideful with what I thought was my oh-so-generous giving from my abundance on a regular basis. Talk about twisting a good thing into a sinful thing!

But then God sent an elderly man who lived in a shack in the hills with no bathroom and no running vehicle and no reliable income to jolt me right out of my self-righteous la-la-land. I was doing as we were instructed—getting to know our homeowners as we worked to convert a room into a bathroom, replace doors and flooring and put up insulation and wallboard. The man’s wife was easy to converse with and she was a joy-filled, saint-in-the-making witness of service as she cared for her adult grandson with special needs. But her husband was a different story. His behavior was a bit unpredictable and we weren’t sure how to best approach him. When he mentioned his patch of green beans growing behind the house, I followed a Holy Spirit nudge to talk with the man about our mutual gardening interests. He lit up when I asked to see them. He led me to a fence behind the back porch where he had expertly strung twine and about a dozen rows of vines were producing gorgeous green beans by the bowlful.

“Here!” he said with a big grin as he picked a handful of beans and held them out to me. “You can have the first ones.”

I was dumbfounded. “I can’t!” I sputtered. “They’re yours!” I knew this man had gone hunting the night before in order to have meat for the table that day. I wasn’t about to take any bounty from his garden.

“Take them,” he insisted. “The Good Lord wants me to share what I got.”

Well, shoot. Didn’t I just get knocked off my high horse, as my dad used to say. Here was this man with few resources offering me the first fruits of his garden without batting an eye, while I had sat in my air-conditioned office the week before, calculating my annual gift-giving totals that really didn’t hurt my bottom line much at all. Ugh. Suddenly I was on the wrong side of the lesson Jesus taught about the rich people giving from their surplus versus the poor widow giving her two mites from her poverty. I was deeply moved and deeply humbled.

Generosity is not supposed to be complicated or executed out of a sense of obligation; it’s a virtue. It’s supposed to come from the heart, spontaneously and simply and as a lifestyle practice, the way my Kentucky friend does it. It should be born of a sense of abundance, no matter our circumstances, because we have a foundational trust in Jesus as our provider and sustainer. And because we realize that everything we do have has been given to us. But I had forgotten all that. I had turned giving into a checkbox on my to-do list, an assignment to complete, and had consequently drained the task of all its essence. “Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing,” said St. Therese of Lisieux. My mindless, wordless, arm’s-length giving is in need of an injection from the Holy Spirit, I wrote in my prayer journal the following morning. Sharing what I have should come from a place of love and gratitude. It should encompass practical efforts like giving money or food, and also include sharing time, words of encouragement and praise… and my faith. I needed this unexpected “green bean benevolence” reminder that my life should be a living, breathing, constant “thank you,” which consistently compels me to be joyfully generous every day and in numerous ways.

I sincerely thanked my teacher for the unexpected gifts he bestowed on me and, fighting back tears of conviction, I put the beans in the dashboard of our truck so I could take them home and set them on my desk. They are a reminder that I can do more and I can do better. And I can do it with greater love.

After all, the Good Lord wants me to share what I got, too.

 

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Addie Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

An Encounter with Christ at Walmart

 

“…so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Luke 10:29

Today, I grudgingly drove to my least favorite place on earth – my local Walmart. I mean no offense to Walmart employees or fellow patrons, but I try to avoid that place at all costs. It always seems as though everyone in the store (myself included) wants to be somewhere else – anywhere else. I’m constantly dodging carts or shooing my kids out of harm’s way, typically in the form of an old lady on a motorized scooter, bent for her bran flakes.

And really, couldn’t they open up more than three of those eighty-seven checkout lanes?!

In one of those purgatorial lanes, I waited. On another day, I may have occupied my time by checking Facebook or simply staring into space. For some reason, today I noticed the gentleman behind me in line. He was elderly, and was using one of the seated, motorized shopping carts for assistance. He looked tired, and I had a feeling it may be difficult for him to unload his own cart. So I asked if it would be helpful if I unloaded his cart for him. This caught him off guard, but after a moment he said, “That would be great.”

We struck up a conversation about the spring weather and the items we were purchasing; he urged me to try Diet Dr. Pepper, while I sang the praises of my Keurig coffee pods. Somehow, our conversation led to his telling me about the difficult year he had been through. He had open heart surgery, and for months he hadn’t cared whether he lived or died. Now that it was spring, he was happy to be feeling better and grateful to be able to work outside.

When I was finished unloading his cart, he thanked me and told me, “You are just as sweet as you look.” (It should be noted this was quite a stretch, since I was wearing dirty sweats and a baseball cap, but I’ll accept the compliment!) We wished each other well, and parted, each better for having met the other.

I had been feeling sort of down myself that day, preoccupied with worry about my own upcoming surgery and care-worn over one of my boys. It would have been so easy for me to ignore the other soul in the check-out line with me. I am grateful that the Lord drew me out of myself and into relationship with a stranger – my neighbor.

St. Paul tells the Romans, “Let each of us please our neighbor for the good, for building up” (Romans 15:2). Friends, we need each other – now, more than ever. Today, I encountered Christ in this elderly gentleman. And the Lord allowed me the opportunity to show Christ to him. Thanks be to God.

 

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Discipleship Faith Formation Ink Slingers Patty

Unbound Sponsorship–A Love that Crosses Oceans

Shaliesh from India.
Shaliesh in 2004, as a child in India.

It was shortly before Christmas 2003 that I heard of the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, now called Unbound. At the time, I was a single mother with five children and a mortgage, who made less than $30,000 per year.

When it comes to charities, I’m fairly discerning. So many charities end up putting as much if not more money into “administrative costs” than into actually helping the cause. So I was impressed when I researched Unbound and found that 92% of donations go directly into program support. Currently 92.5% goes to programming, with another 4.3% toward fundraising and an astoundingly minuscule 3.2% for administration.

From Humble Beginnings

Unbound started in 1981 when four siblings and two of their friends decided to not just raise awareness of the poverty in Latin America, but do something about it. Guided by their faith, they created a sponsorship program first for children and then later for the elderly, too. Four years in, they had 1,000 sponsors; currently 260,000 sponsors support approximately 300,000 poor children and elderly people around the world.

When it first occurred to me to begin donating to Unbound, I had a family meeting with my children. At the time, we were in the habit of going out about twice a month to a restaurant, which ran about $25-$30 each time. I asked my children if they would be willing to give up one of those outings so we could sponsor a child. I informed them our money would provide a child with basic necessities and assistance so he or she could go to school.

12394813_10154032598474156_1866870913_oI’m proud to say it was a short conversation. My children were enthusiastic about the idea of having a sponsored brother or sister. I contacted Unbound, and told them to just pick a child for us; I left it in God’s hands that we would be matched with one we could truly help. In February of 2004, we began sponsoring Shailesh, a young boy from India. He was just a bit younger than my second child, Daniel, who was 12 at the time.

For more than a decade, we’ve received letters several times a year from Shailesh in his native tongue, which were interpreted in India and then forwarded to us. He would talk about his family, how he was doing in school, and even the weather when it became extreme. He would request our prayers while thanking us for our help. The letters were always accompanied by a picture he drew; I loved and treasured each one and we all eagerly looked forward to them.

Shailesh wasn’t just our sponsored child, he was part of our family. We wrote back to him and sent him pictures so he could have more than just a vague awareness of us. Once a year, Unbound would send a new picture of Shailesh and some years his family was included in the photo, too! He would share his dreams and achievements with us. As the years passed and my own children grew up, I also watched Shailesh grow, as you can see in the progression of pictures in this article. 

In 2009, I requested that Unbound match me with a girl from India, too. I understood how little females are valued in India and I wanted to make a difference in the life of at least one girl there, to give her a chance to be more than what Indian society dictates she should be. Unfortunately, my sponsorship of Sony ended in January of 2011 because her family did not continue to meet Unbound’s requirements for sponsorship. 

My Adopted Indian Son

12395186_10154032598644156_738476711_nIn 2010, I married my husband, Frank, and my children and I moved from Kansas to Wyoming with a newborn baby girl we named Clare. I didn’t anticipate having trouble finding a job in Wyoming as a nurse, but I was wrong. My husband and I had a conversation about finances and I told him that while there were many things I was willing to give up, my sponsorship was not one of them. Fortunately, he agreed and we’ve continue to sponsor Shaliesh. 

In the interim, Unbound made it possible to send letters to the person you sponsor online! That was wonderful for a woman whose biggest challenge in sending letters was getting to the post office five miles away.

A few years ago, I received two letters from priests that knew Shaliesh. He was very, very ill and the illness was not just affecting his body but also his mind. They did not know if or when he would recover enough to return to school. We worried and prayed for him. I was overjoyed when about six months later I finally received a letter from Shaliesh that announced he was back in school and working hard to catch up.

My eyes tear up when I think of Shaliesh and how hard he has struggled to be where he is now. He shared with me earlier this year that he hopes to become a doctor. I am so, so proud of him! I will rejoice if he does become a doctor and I will be equally happy if he chooses a different occupation, too. I would love to hear one day that he has married and is raising his children in the faith. Even though he is in his 20’s now, I will continue to have the privilege of sponsoring him as long as he is in school. I hope that once my sponsorship ends I will still be able to communicate with him. Perhaps one day, I may even meet him in person. Should God allow that day to arrive, I will tell Shaliesh that he is not just my sponsored child, but is a child of my heart, too.

I encourage you to pray and see if you can fit in your budget the cost of changing the life of an impoverished child or adult. Don’t just talk to your children about helping the less fortunate~involve them in this, make it something they contribute to in some tangible way. Let Unbound help you “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give drink to the thirsty.” I’ve sponsored Shaleish for nearly 12 years. Yes, we’ve helped him. But my family and I are the blessed ones in this relationship. Please join us, even if it means giving up a meal or two out on the town or a few paper cups of that overpriced coffee. You won’t regret it.

12358529_10154032598869156_394921939_n
Shaliesh may want to become a doctor. Whatever God’s plans are for him, I know he’ll prosper.

For more information about sponsoring an impoverished child or adult through Unbound, visit the organization’s website here. 

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Ink Slingers Mary P. Series You Did It To Me

You Did It To Me: Clothing The Naked

Welcome to the series “You did it to me” where we will be discussing the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. This will be a twice a month series from March to September 2015. We hope you enjoy!

Clothe nakedIn the prosperous Western world, clothing is something most of us take for granted. We think that “having nothing to wear” means that the clothes in our full closets do not look good enough on us, are not right for the occasion, or are “so last season.” In our consumerist society, we are told that we have to dress a certain way, and as that way is ever-changing, we are constantly in need of new clothing to keep up. For most of us, the idea of literally having nothing to wear, or even having nothing that is clean, appropriately-fitting, and in good condition, is foreign to us. And even as the needy people we might encounter are almost never literally naked, we might not think that much about the corporal work of mercy of clothing the naked and how it applies to us (at least, not beyond getting our little children dressed in the morning). We probably aren’t just asking ourselves when we saw Jesus naked and either clothed/did not clothe him (as those at their Judgment ask in Matthew 25), but when we saw anyone in need of this act of mercy .

landfill clothesWhen we are cleaning out our pantries, we might think of those without food and take a bag of cans-we-never-used to our parish’s food pantry. But what do we do with those old clothing items that we feel like we have to replace because we got tired of wearing them or because they are no longer considered “in fashion”? I read an article about the fact that clothing is clogging up the landfills. It wasn’t just talking about those articles of clothing that are holey or worn too thin, but clothing that is actually in wearable condition. It even mentioned that a major clothing retailer throws away perfectly usable, brand new clothing (after ruining it so no one can take it out of the garbage, I guess). Meanwhile, there are people in our own backyards (and certainly those in other countries) who cannot afford to replace their too-small pants and their sneakers with the large holes in the soles. Perhaps they aren’t literally naked, but their clothing is not adequate. Pope Francis said that when we throw away food, we are taking it from the mouths of the poor. I wonder what he’d say about throwing away useful clothing. I imagine he would think it were equally unjust toward our brothers and sisters in need. There are drop boxes for clothing donations popping up all over the place now. You can simply bag up the stuff you want to get rid of and take it to one of those drop boxes rather than throwing it in the trash, and someone else takes care of the “heavy lifting” of actually distributing it to those in need. So, none of us really has an excuse for throwing away clothing that can still be worn.

I read another article recently that encouraged people not to give the poor their “leftovers” – in this case, those pieces of clothing that only have a little bit of life left in them it or ones we’d be embarrassed to offer to a friend or family member. Although that old saying that “beggars can’t be choosers” has some usefulness to it (like when my four year old is begging for snack but tries to turn down what I offer her because she wants something else), it should never be used as an excuse to treat those in need as if they don’t deserve the same things that we deserve. Clothing is a symbol of our human dignity. It is one of the things that set us apart from animals. And it’s within our fallen human nature to think that people with nicer clothing are somehow more dignified (even though it’s untrue). So in thinking that clothing we would never be caught dead in, and would never want our friends caught dead in, is “good enough” for the poor, we might be unconsciously feeding into the idea that they have less dignity than we do. Although I think that even our “castaway” clothing should be donated rather than thrown away as long as it is still wearable (because ugly or old clothing is better than nothing), I agree with the idea that we should strive to think of “the least of these” as worthy of everything of which we believe we ourselves to be worthy. We should think of ways we can clothe the naked with clothing that sends the message that they have dignity and are worthy of respect.

homeless clothingWe have a faith-based charity in my city that collects clothing in one of those drop boxes and gives it directly to the city’s needy (unlike companies such as Good Will that sell the clothing that you donate). I noticed on their website that they accept all types of clothing, including formal dresses. I once mentioned off-hand to someone that I was going to donate a nice outfit to this charity, and she responded that she didn’t think the people who make use of the services of that charity had any need of such nice clothing. This person has a beautiful heart and truly cares about serving the poor, so I know she did not mean to insult the dignity of these people in need. But I think she, like many of us, didn’t really think about the fact that being poor does not mean that you don’t ever need nice things. Consider the example of someone who is trying to get back on their feet and might need a suit or a nice dress for a job interview and (hopefully) the job itself. Or perhaps someone who has fallen on hard times would just like to put on clothes that make them feel important again. Thinking more globally, I recently heard that African girls who wear nice clothing –particularly dresses- are actually safer than other girls because they are seen as being more respectable and less like “things” to be used and discarded.

homeless coatThis brings me to a potentially painful point – all those kids’ clothes we are storing in the basement for a potential future child, or the ones in our own closets that are too small but we hope will fit us again one day (if we can finally stick to that diet/exercise plan and lose weight) … maybe we shouldn’t be storing those “just in case.” Maybe we should be giving those away instead. Obviously they are clothes that we like and think are worthy to be worn again. We wouldn’t keep them if we didn’t. But, they are not clothes that we have a current need for and we’re not even sure we will ever have a future need for them either. And there are people out there who do have current needs. Do we trust in the Lord’s provisions enough to believe that we will have the clothes we need when we actually need them, so we can be free to give away the ones we don’t currently need to people who actually do? This is something with which I’ve personally struggled quite a bit. The tipping point for me was realizing that, at this point, all those girl clothes I’ve been saving from my second girl will have been sitting in my basement for at least six years before another girl of mine wears them – if I even have another girl! But there are plenty of children who could use them right now. Jesus says that if we have two tunics, we should give one away. There is a voice inside most of us that says “but what if I need that second tunic in the future?!” as we panic over the idea of giving it away. But we have to trust that if and when that time comes, someone else will have a second tunic to share with us.

Adequate clothing is a basic necessity of life for more than one reason. When Jesus was crucified, he was stripped of his garments in order to strip him of his dignity – to humiliate him. When we clothe the naked, we are not only offering to them physical protection from the elements, but affirming their human dignity and worth and thus uplifting their souls.