My friend Nick Barth had been holding a sign pointing to pregnancy resources when the young man, a passerby, approached him on the sidewalk near our state’s only abortion facility.
“He told me, ‘Thanks so much for being here,’” Nick said, recounting his words. “‘Twenty-three years ago, someone like you saved my life.’”
The young man’s mother, living in Minneapolis at the time, was in a difficult situation in her pregnancy, and decided to seek an abortion. But after observing the prayer advocates near the abortion facility, something stirred, and she ditched her appointment.
Though I know only rudimentary details of this story, the young man’s spontaneous visit packs a powerful witness.
He didn’t have to stop to share his story. Yet he recognized the miracle of his life, despite the circumstances, and his gratitude burst forth before a stranger who had no connection with an event 23 years ago.
Additionally, his decision to say “Thanks” affirmed to us sidewalk advocates that our presence there has meaning, even on the days that don’t show immediate fruit. Our being there gave this young man a chance to glorify God, and through his sharing, God spoke words of hope to us.
By his existence, he renewed our hope in life conquering death, reinforcing that by stopping the story in the beginning, or even the middle, we deny ourselves the hopeful end.
Several years ago, while collaborating on her memoir, Ramona Trevino, former Planned Parenthood manager, reminded me of an advertising campaign of her past employer: “Every child a wanted child.”
It sounds so reasonable, right? Now, I challenge you to see the deceit.
In an online image of a Planned Parenthood poster with these words that ran in the Toledo Blade on Feb. 21, 1961, the word “wanted” is highlighted, but even if it had not been, it would have stood out; after all, it strikes at the heart. No one wants to be unwanted.
Our Culture of Death lends itself to “unwanted” things, which become discarded things, including people. Our “throwaway society” compels us to toss what we find inconvenient in the short term.
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,” reflecting the loving gaze of the Father upon each of us, without exception. In other words, everyone, even those inconveniently-timed – are wanted.
Lila Harmsen demonstrates this concept so beautifully. As one who has dedicated countless hours trying to divert people from abortion on the sidewalk Downtown Fargo, she has been presented many justifications for killing a child.
While recently lamenting the fate of children in their mother’s wombs who were about to be destroyed, she recalled a father who once mentioned the thousands of dollars he’d save by aborting his child.
His words tore at her heart, Lila said, because she had grown up poor. “We didn’t always even have enough to eat,” she said, “but I knew my parents loved me. I knew I was wanted, and so I was happy.”
We’ve forgotten what children really need to thrive, she continued, naming three things – love, care and time. “Spending time with our children is especially important.”
We then swapped stories of the simple, free things we’ve enjoyed with our kids through the years, like admiring sunsets, star-gazing, and making S’mores over a firepit. “Most of these don’t cost a penny,” Lila said. “We wrongly believe our kids need a lot of things. It’s just not so. They need very little to feel safe, beyond knowing they are loved.”
Lack of faith causes us not to trust that even when we can’t see how things might work, God can. And while some parents cannot care for their children, other couples deeply desiring children would gladly welcome an “unwanted” child.
The abortion industry has tried fooling us into believing contraception and abortion will assure every child is wanted, if only we’ll submit to doing away with those who they deem unwanted. But again, in God’s eyes, there’s no such thing. We begin with the hopeful premise and go from there.
Peeking through children’s eyes, it becomes so simple. And seeing through God’s heart, we discover that for every child conceived, a set of arms awaits the chance to welcome and hold that precious, unrepeatable, hope-filled creation.
The biggest tragedy isn’t an imperfect life, for none of us can claim having lived such a life. Rather, it is purposefully stopping the story before it’s had a chance to start.
[Note: I write about my experiences on the sidewalk Downtown Fargo on Wednesday, the day abortions happen at our state’s only abortion facility, for New Earth magazine — the official news publication of the Fargo Diocese. I hope you find “Sidewalk Stories” helpful in understanding the truth about abortion and how it plays out tragically each week here in Fargo, N.D. The preceding ran in New Earth’s Oct. 2018 issue.]