I'll never know

By Gerrit Van Dorland

Doing “Choice” Chain outside the gates of your own university campus is different. I spent the last two summers doing full-time pro-life activism on busy street corners all over the GTA, knocking on people’s doors and discussing abortion and human rights with them, and dropping thousands of postcards into people’s mailboxes. Throughout this time, I rarely felt intimidated—the truth is on our side. Yet, when I “Choice” Chain on my own campus, I feel apprehensive. Perhaps it’s the thought of classmates seeing me with abortion victim photography that makes me uncomfortable, or maybe it’s because confronting the banality of evil in a place that has become your second home is tragic and jarring. This, after all, is my university. Whatever the cause is, the anxiety I feel is unique to doing activism at Western University.

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Last week however, on a windy Tuesday afternoon, I felt no anxiety. Instead, my usual  anxiety was replaced with a sense of urgency that grew as I made the ten minute hike from our University Library to Richmond Street, where we would be  “Choice” Chaining. I wasn’t sure why I felt that way, but it felt good. I wanted to be there. No, I knew I had to be there. I whispered a prayer, and held up my sign confidently. I caught the attention of the first student who walked by, asking her “What do you think about abortion?” Her name was Hannah and we had a great conversation that ended with her joining our pro-life club. The conversations continued, some successful and others not so much.  

As I finished a conversation with a student, I noticed a young woman at my side, waiting to cross the street. She was in her early twenties, wearing a beige jacket. She had dark brown hair and wore equally dark sunglasses. She wasn’t looking at my sign. Her head was faced decisively forward, as she waited for the cross-walk signal to change. I sensed that she was ignoring me intentionally, but I decided to approach her anyway. “What do you think about abortion?” I asked, handing her a pamphlet. She took the pamphlet, but gave no reply. She continued to look ahead of her, pamphlet in her hand resting at her side. I waited a few seconds, and tried again. “Have you ever seen images like this before?”

I watched as she swallowed and pushed back loose strands of hair behind her ear. She was silent for a few moments, and then responded. “No I haven’t,” she said softly, shaking her head. “And I think abortion is awful.” 

I heard pain in her voice. 

“I agree,” I said, “abortion is awful. Do you think there are any situations where it may be justified?” 

She continued to look ahead of her, still waiting for a change in lights. “Rape,” she whispered. 

My thoughts began to race. Hours of practice in dealing with various situations while doing activism had taught me the cues to look out for in recognizing a victim. I didn’t want to get personal right away. If there was something she wanted to tell me, it would have to come from her. “Do you know someone who has been in that situation?” I asked. 

She nodded. 

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I offered. “How is she doing?” 

“Not good.”

And then, at the worst possible moment—before I could reply, before I could offer her support and connect her with resources, before I could show her that there is hope and healing, that she is not alone in her situation—the light changed, and she hurried off. As she moved past me, I caught a quick glimpse of her eyes behind her sunglasses. I saw pain. I saw hurt. I saw despair. 

I watched helplessly, as she walked off. I wanted to run after her, but knew I shouldn’t. It wasn’t my place to assume she was a victim, though intuition told me that the person she was referring to was herself. It’s a mechanism we all use to protect ourselves. When we don’t want to openly speak about something with someone, we tell our story in third-person narrative. 

There was only one more thing I could do—pray. 

This story is a disheartening one. I was disheartened. But the reality is, we will not always be the healer or the valiant hero that saves the day. Sometimes we are called to a place and never learn why. 

Did I need to be there for the woman with the beige jacket and long brown hair? Had I completely misread the situation? Perhaps someone drove by who was considering an abortion, but after seeing our sign, changed their mind. While I wish I knew why I felt urgency to “Choice” Chain at Western University Gates at Richmond Street at 3:00 p.m., I don’t, and likely never will. 

It’s a broken, hurting world we live in, but this is how we bring light. We plant the seeds, we show love, and trust God to give the increase. Sometimes we can stand back and watch as He works to soften the hearts of people, watch as they change their minds, find hope and courage, and choose life. Often however, we don’t get to watch. In those times we can only stand in awe at God’s omnipotence. I hope and pray that the girl with the beige jacket and long brown hair, the girl who seemed to be in so much pain, will find healing. Maybe she will connect with the resources listed in the pamphlet I handed her. Maybe she just needed to see that I cared. But all I can do is hope and pray.

With the humble mindset of a servant, a sower of seeds, we head to the streets again, and show truth with love again. The world is still hurting—we live in a broken world, and it needs insignificant persons like you and me to continue to sow the seeds. Row by row, seed by seed, all the while hoping, praying, and trusting that God will give the increase.