The thing about getting to know your parish community is that your parish community knows you. They pray for you and ask how you’re doing with this-and-that project and come up with ideas for you when you hit sticky spots in your life. But when it’s time for the 40 Days for Life campaign, they also insist that you volunteer to participate once a week in the peaceful prayer vigil outside of Planned Parenthood, especially if you work from home. And when I say “but” it’s not because this is not a most worthy cause. No. I say “but” because it requires that we be a little extra selfless which is, you know, not usually that much fun.
Here’s the truth: my husband didn’t want to say yes. Because it’s a long drive and it’s another time commitment and he’s an introvert being asked to put himself in the middle of “the public” voluntarily. But he did say yes. Because he lives his faith and loves the Truth and appreciates the fact that during Lent, and in life, we’re asked to do a whole lot of important things we don’t want to do.
And because of that ‘yes’, I’m pretty sure, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that he saved someone’s life.
“After a particularly testing shift of prayer and witness outside of…Planned Parenthood (the previous) week, I began to ask Mary for her intercession to help reach more youth in the sadly hostile territory of the…college district,” he wrote in a recent email.
When he says “hostile” he means near constant jeers. Insults flung by people of all ages. Getting flipped off by the driver of every other passing car. Cars with “Coexist” stickers on their bumpers. Do they talk about ‘irony’ in college anymore? I felt so sad for him and for them and for every vigil volunteer anywhere when I heard these stories. Where there is that much anger, there must be so much pain. So many people in so much pain makes my heart ache.
“My prayers were answered in the form of a silly little foil balloon with a picture of a stork carrying a baby,… and a bouquet of pink flowers. I saw them at the store on the way to my next prayer shift, and felt called to buy them.” he continues.
He decided to carry them as a simple, positive, visual message.
As soon as he took his post at the entrance to the parking lot of Planned Parenthood, a young girl, probably college-aged, in her dilapidated blue car started to pull in. But then jerked to a halt. He could see the sadness and fear in her eyes. She was alone.
“She sat staring, not at me or my…sign, but at the balloon. After a moment of staring at it bobbing in the wind and winding itself around the flowers, tears began streaming down her cheeks.”
As soon as she had stopped, he had begun to pray the Hail Mary, asking our Blessed Mother to touch this girl’s heart, to give her comfort in her moment of need.
“She continued into the parking lot, where she made a quick U-turn and left, still crying.”
At this point in the story, tears had already started welling up in my own eyes. He didn’t know who she was or why she was there, but she was in pain and something prompted her to change her mind about whatever it is she thought she had to do, and for that he thanked God. He didn’t imagine he’d ever know more.
But then he did.
“Just before I was about to leave, I heard the craziest, most exuberant car honking. It was coming from a dilapidated blue car slowly approaching despite the faster traffic backing up…around her. It was the girl, waving at me, with a huge, beautiful smile on her face, the kind of smile you can only get when an enormous burden has been lifted from your shoulders and cast away forever. All I could do was smile back!“