Many times throughout the last several years, I’ve seen the question posed in one way or another. It’s usually done in the context of a pro-life advocate trying to raise an issue, and being told by an pro-abortion individual that there are more important things to be sorted out. “Aren’t there starving children or something you should be helping instead?”
I just saw it again the other day, and it was directed at me. Rather than just get frustrated, I thought perhaps I could delve into the question a bit, and offer a thoughtful answer. After all, on some level, it’s a fair question, right? I mean, even if abortion is the scourge some of us believe it to be, there ARE children starving, both physically and spiritually, and shouldn’t that be our first point of response? Shouldn’t we take care of that very urgent top layer first?
It is imperative we deal with issues like starvation, and war, and all of the other atrocities happening in our world everyday; things that, if we ponder them enough could leave us frozen, given the immensity of the wreckage they leave behind. I have never met a pro-lifer who would not agree with the fact that these issues are important, too.
But there are two related points that need to be considered here as well, in all fairness.
One, we cannot, on our own, solve all the world’s ills. We are each just one person, with limited capacity. So we necessarily must start small, and start somewhere. We must look around our world and do what we can do in the confinement of our surroundings. We must bring the enormity of the world’s issues down to a manageable level. If we don’t, we will never get anywhere at all. We will simply be stagnant due to so much need, and so little time and resources.
So those who are on a path of growth, of trying to make the world better, typically go through a sorting to find the issue that most speaks to them. Mother Teresa was good at helping us sort, saying that sometimes, peace starts right in our own home; that oftentimes, it is enough to sow love right in the spot where we are. Oftentimes, that has to be enough, and it is more than enough.
But when we’ve been given the energy to reach beyond, we necessarily gravitate toward the issues that are the most relevant and reachable. As a young adult, and then mother, as I was going through this sorting process, the issue of abortion began to call to me, because it was very relevant. As a mother, and one who has lost a baby through miscarriage, and known friends who have suffered post-abortive trauma, this issue began to call more loudly than others. In part through losing a child, I recognized in a way I might not have otherwise the immense value of each soul. Through raising my five children who did make it into this world alive, that insight was further strengthened. And ultimately, losing friends and family members and experiencing their deaths, as well as the “inexhaustible beauty” of each person I’d known and loved, further enhanced the reality that every living soul has infinite value.
All of these experiences, and then some, have pulled me toward this particular issue. Did I walk toward it willingly at first? Oh no. I think it must have been more like, “Really? Does it have to be THAT issue of all issues?” It would have been easier to run in the other direction, and fast! But the truth is I didn’t choose this issue; more closely to reality, it chose me.
At some juncture in our journey, the conscience is tapped, and two choices appear before us. We can either ignore the little voice and choose to be quiet, to live with the tension that, even having been enlightened, it would be so much easier to just pretend we don’t know the truth. Or, we can do what we know is right, even if hard, and dive in, with the assurance that so long as we’re on the side of life, we will never be alone. The God is life will be with us.
The other point to keep in mind is that while, yes, there are starving children in our world, and we have an obligation to respond to their needs, if we only live in a reactionary way, eventually we will find ourselves on an ever-spinning wheel of futility. My father taught me years ago that it wasn’t enough to just yank the top of the weed out of the ground. I had to pull the whole thing carefully from the bottom so that the root came with. If we’re to truly move forward, we must grab hold of that weed from the bottom and give it a big, strong tug to retrieve the whole root, and send the weed on its way. In other words, we must not only feed the starving children, but address the underlying causes of hunger.
Part of the underlying cause of hunger, as abortion, is our inability to see the human person as a valuable and unrepeatable whole. If we fail to see this, there will never be enough food because even as we try to feed the little mouths opened widest, their brothers and sisters will be destroyed in other ways.
That’s why abortion is so important to me. I’m convinced that if we don’t address the root, the beginning of life, we will never get the middle or end right. It’s not just as simple as keeping the baby with us. We also need to reach out to the mothers and what led them onto that path, as well as the fathers and others involved in that woman’s, that child’s, life. How can we expand our hearts so that death is never again considered a “viable” (oxymoron) solution?
It’s not easy, nor quick, but with faith the size of a mustard seed, with God, our tree of life can grow large and strong. Mother Teresa started small, yet the order she founded continues to grow wider and wider to better the world. The reach of this one, diminutive nun has set the world ablaze, not on her own accord but because she followed God all the while. When we set our gaze on Him and align our goals with His, anything is possible. And by the way, His goals will never lead to death. He is the God of life and life will always be the result of our following Him.
So let’s keep working on filling the tummies of the starving children in our midst. And while we’re at it, lets not neglect their starving souls. As we move in that direction, we will find the issues that will help us more assuredly start somewhere to make that difference most, in our respective time.
For me, one of the issues I’ve been pulled to, because I am a woman, a mother, and one who loves deeply, is abortion. I don’t hold this up at the expense of other issues, but gravitate toward it because it is an area in which I feel I can, with God’s help, make a difference.
“We are not asked to be successful, only faithful,” Mother Teresa reminded us. And for today, that is enough, and it is a lot.
Q4U: What is one of the issues that you’ve been called to address to help better the world?