One morning, on a visit to my hometown, I was driving our minivan along a main street, with my children in the back and my mom in the passenger seat beside me. As I pulled up to a stoplight, a car on my left began to honk. I looked over to see the driver gesturing at me to roll down my window, as if he needed to tell me something.
Alarmed, I lowered my window, thinking that he must have spotted something dangerously wrong with my car.
“Excuse me,” he said with a smile, “but you look familiar. Haven’t I seen you on TV?”
I shook my head, confused. “No,” I answered, searching my brain for where this man might know me from.
“No, really,” he pressed, “aren’t you that lady…the one with all the adopted kids?”
“No,” I answered again, smiling back at him in bewilderment.
“You aren’t that lady with all the foster kids, with all those disabled kids you’ve adopted?”
Again, I shook my head no, wondering what in the world he could be talking about.
That’s when he gave up his game. His smile disappeared.
“Your bumper stickers,” he said angrily, pointing toward the back of my car. His face turned to stone as he made it clear what a hypocrite I was for being pro-life when I had not fostered or adopted any disabled children. Then he sped off.
In shock, I rolled up my window and looked ahead to where the traffic light had turned green. I was distracted and shaky as I stepped on the gas.
I’d had pro-life bumper stickers for a long time, and this was the first time they had ever elicited a reaction like this. The three on my car were, I thought, pretty tame: a Scripture quote about God caring for us even before we are born, a small Crossroads Walk sticker that says “PRO-LIFE,” and a hotline number for people considering abortion.
But coupled with my lack of adopted children, these bumper stickers became enough evidence for this man to indict me as a fraud.
What He Didn’t Ask
Once the initial shock began to wear off, I went over and over the event in my mind. I was really shaken.
On one hand, I knew this was persecution, and I shouldn’t let it get to me. If I express my pro-life beliefs, I should expect resistance. And he was wrong to distract me while I was driving, wrong to deceive me into confusion before pulling his punch.
On the other hand, though, was there a grain of truth in what he said? Was I as pro-life as I thought I was? Had I earned the right to display those bumper stickers on my car?
With time and prayer, God helped me to see that no single action can tally whether a person has “earned” pro-life status. Adopting a child with special needs is a gift of extraordinary beauty; yet not everyone is called or able to do it. I had not, so far, heard that call, though I was open to it.
And then, what about the other questions—the ones he didn’t ask? Not that he had a right to pry into private matters, but if he was bent on it, why was there only one issue swinging the gavel of his judgement? Why didn’t he ask whether I’ve financially supported children living in poverty-stricken nations? Helped find jobs for unemployed single mothers? Volunteered to cuddle drug-addicted infants? Watched an exhausted neighbor’s children?
Had he considered whether I’ve visited residents in nursing homes, prisons, or hospitals? Being pro-life means caring for all lives, especially those people who suffer what St. Teresa of Calcutta called the ultimate poverty, the poverty of loneliness and feeling unloved.
The driver next to me could have raised a hundred other questions and still not even scratched the surface of what it means to be pro-life. He raised only one.
I do not mean to imply that I would have answered yes to all of these questions. I would have answered no to some, and yes to others. It would be impossible for one person to perform every pro-life action in the world. That’s not how God sets it up; He wants us to work together, taking different but complementary roles. Even St. Teresa of Calcutta didn’t personally adopt special-needs children—that was not her vocation—though she took care of them with great love, and it would be difficult to find anyone more pro-life than she was.
In all honesty, are there ways I fail at being pro-life? Yes—every time I fail to love others as I should. Yet, while failure is the mark of humanity, it is not the measure of it. It’s the reason we need help, and the reason we need to help one another.
When you value every human life, no matter how much you accomplish, there will always be things you haven’t done, ways you haven’t served. But, as St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing.”
Help and Hope
Months later, when the stranger at the traffic light was a distant memory, I was at home one morning, and happened to glance out our front window, where I noticed a young woman in the street. She was just standing there, behind our minivan, staring at the back of it.
At first, I wondered what she was doing. Then I noticed that she had her phone in her hand. She looked back and forth, from her phone to the back of the minivan. Suddenly, it dawned on me: She was taking down the number of the pregnancy hotline.
I believe God allowed me to look out at that exact moment for two reasons. First of all, so that I could pray for the woman. And secondly, to show me that He will use my efforts, no matter how small, to do His work.
What the driver who questioned me might not have understood is that I didn’t put that bumper sticker on my car as a political statement, nor as a claim that I can solve the problems of the world. I put it there in the hope that it might help someone. By God’s grace, I pray it did. In the end, it’s not about bumper stickers; it’s about doing something, however seemingly little or insignificant, so that a person who needs it might find hope.
And what if the woman in the street wasn’t the only one who needed to find hope? What if the angry driver needed hope, too? There is so much more to both of their stories that only God knows. I must remember to pray, not only for the one who was easier to love—the woman who stirred my compassion—but for the one who was harder to love—the driver I’m inclined to resent, of whom Jesus spoke when He said to “pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 5:44)
The dignity of each person is not contingent upon age, ethnicity, beliefs, income, abilities, behavior, or any other factor. When you value every human life, you strive to honor the dignity that God has given to all of His children, whom He created in His image. Even—or perhaps especially—those in whom His image is hardest to see.
If you can spare a moment, please say a prayer for these two people, and for all souls who are in need of help and hope. May we all find our place as beloved children in the arms of the Father who gave us life, and who longs to give us life forever.