I started this week with a trip to Orlando that I tried to cancel. I’m on the board of Heartbeat International, a phenomenal group that supports a network of pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) in the United States and around the world. Every year Heartbeat hosts a conference for the directors and staff of its affiliate centers. The board takes this opportunity to have one of its regular meetings. Busy with work, weighed down by my study of the sex abuse scandals in the Church, and wanting more time with my husband, the last thing I wanted to do was to take a trip regardless of the worthy cause.
After a weather delay, I arrived Monday night for the tail end of the dinner welcoming the international attendees. Right away I had the same realization that I have when I attend most pro-life events: we may be a home-spun group, but there are a lot of good things happening. People don’t get involved in the pro-life movement because they have specific abilities and training. They get involved because they want to change lives, allow people to be born, and they’ll learn whatever they have to in order to get closer to this goal.
To me this indicates a certain humility, a willingness to be used for a greater purpose, even when one doesn’t understand how it will all happen. One pastor told the story of how he started his first PRC. In order to pay the $6/hour salary of the woman working in the center, he got a painting job that paid $15/hour. It may not have been much and it certainly made him wonder about the point of his education, but it served a purpose.
If you’ve spent any time involved with pro-life activities, you know that these stories abound. But they point to a drive and a zeal that isn’t stifled simply because people don’t readily know how they’re going to accomplish what they’re going to accomplish.
These initiatives span everything from legislative projects to activism to education to pregnancy resource centers. But I believe that the frontline of the abortion debate is the woman or girl faced with a crisis pregnancy who thinks that abortion is the only choice she has. That’s one of the reasons I am honored to serve on the board of Heartbeat and inspired by the people who carry out the day-to-day work in centers across the nation and in other parts of the world. They make the impossible possible. The centers don’t simply counsel against abortion. A client encounters people who are ready to help her with all of her needs: physical, emotional, spiritual, material, etc.
Centers help women get medical care, they help them get work and find places to live, they teach them how to parent or help them to make an adoption plan, they help the fathers of the unborn babies get jobs so that they can be more actively involved in the life of the mother and their child together. It’s no Cinderella story. It’s real life.
But if it weren’t for these centers, abortion would seem like the only answer to the challenge of a crisis pregnancy. If it weren’t for the people who serve in these centers, abortion would seem necessary. And when the bad news in the world seems overwhelming, it’s encouraging to know that there are victories in the timeless battle between good and evil.
Maybe the lesson in all this is that the work allows us to be part of something bigger than ourselves. In the end, it’s not our work. There’s a story about St. Camillus, a 16th and 17th century priest who was praying before a crucifix as he was in the process of starting a religious order dedicated to hospital care. As the story goes, he was overwhelmed by how he would be able to accomplish his work, and he poured all this out in his prayer. Christ’s body on the crucifix reached down and patted his shoulder saying, “Don’t worry. It’s not your work. It’s my work.”