Her story broke my heart. It was one of pain, brokenness, loss, sorrow, loneliness – all carefully hidden under a mask of anger and bitterness. From her blazing eyes and the way she yelled at me, the mask was all I saw. But from her words, the buried pain was obvious. She’d survived sexual assault. She’d had an abortion. And it had happened when she was only eight years old.
What could I say? I could do nothing to take away her pain. I couldn’t even imagine what she was going through. I couldn’t begin to understand how much the memory hurt.
When I was younger, I thought I had a terrible life. Nobody could have had a worse life than I did—if only I realized how blessed I really was. I had a great life – a loving family, supportive friends, everything I could wish for. Yes, I lost my baby sister when I was a year old. Yes, I now have two beautiful cousins who were adopted after my aunt and uncle had no children for over 15 years. Yes, I lost three siblings to miscarriages. But all that paled in the face of the tragic story I had just heard. I couldn’t begin to imagine her pain. How, then, could I respond?
And then I remembered the second-greatest commandment: love thy neighbour as thyself. It is not about responding. It’s not even about understanding. It’s about love.
And so, I tried to show her love. After all, love is why I’m here. I’m here because I love pre-born children and don’t want them to be killed. I’m here because I love mothers and fathers and don’t want them to choose death for their babies. I’m here because I love sisters and brothers and don’t want them to be deprived of their little siblings. But I’m also here because I love the people I talk to – even the ones who yell at me that they felt there was no way out of their situation without aborting their child. I was here to love the woman who was so upset with me. And so, I tried.
It was hard to show love to this girl because my interaction with her was so short. Her pain was so great that she simply came and yelled her story and left before I even had time to think. I didn’t have a chance to show her love, even though I desperately wanted to.
Thankfully, there have been other times when I have been able to show love to hurting people.
I think of the elderly woman I met recently who shared that her mother had forced her to have an abortion when she was very young, and she has been unable to have children ever since. Her story broke my heart, too. How could I understand her pain? But then I remembered: I didn’t have to. All I had to do was show her love. I had to show her that I cared, that I mourned for the baby she’d lost, for the children she might have had. And so, I tried.
I think of the girl who came up to me at a high school to share her concern that the images we use can be hurtful, and then tearfully told me about her aunt’s recent abortion. Her story broke my heart; I couldn’t understand her pain, either. But once again, I didn’t have to. All I had to do was show her love. I had to show her that I cared about her and her aunt and the cousin she’d lost. I had to convey that I cared so much that I wanted to keep others from experiencing the same pain that she did and that’s why I had to keep showing the pictures. And so, I tried.
I think of the woman Sam and I met who told us how she was adopted and, had abortion been available before she was born, she would likely not be here right now. Her story broke my heart. I couldn’t understand her pain, but all I had to do was show her love. I had to show her that I cared about her and was glad she was here, that I was so thankful that her parents had been able to adopt her and love her even when her biological parents weren’t able to care for her. I expressed that I wished every parent would love their children enough to give them a chance at life. And so, I tried.
It’s not easy to show love to everyone we meet, but it’s what we have to do. We do it because love is, after all, what we’re here for.
I can’t help but think of 1 Corinthians 13. How true are the words it contains: though I have all faith, though I give all my goods to the poor, though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, I am nothing. There is no situation we could face in the pro-life movement where this is not true. If we don’t show love to the people we meet, we really are nothing. It’s great if we love pre-born babies—I know we all do, or we wouldn’t be here. But if we blindly go about our lifesaving work without loving the people in front of us, we really are nothing.
And then I can’t help but think of the reason why we’re here. That same chapter explains our motivation beautifully in the last verse: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.