Today, the sidewalk in front of North Dakota’s only abortion facility came with a side of sleet, along with an extra portion of pray-ers via a busload of kids from the Minto and Warsaw areas of North Dakota. They brought their signs and smiles and weren’t afraid to share them.
The sidewalk always brightens a bit when young people join in. The youth have a life about them that we all need to encounter daily. In the sight of their energy, our adult worries melt away.
It did my heart good to see them. And to see other signs of hope. This man had a message for Nik Severson, the protestor who gained visibility in our community over the past couple weeks by his boisterous presence on the sidewalk.
It’s a good message, and one that a lot of us are feeling these days. We don’t wish ill. That doesn’t mean we’re pleased with what’s happened (I wrote about it the first day I encountered it here), because we rather like a peaceful presence. After all, as Christians, “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song,” as St. JP2 was fond of reminding us. But we hope for a hopeful end, for him and all.
And speaking of that, I need to loop back to an earlier utterance, to clarify for the sake of good will.
Let me explain. After today’s session, I met with a pro-life friend who broached the topic of that initial post, where I highlighted the word “bully.” He wanted to know if I, by using the word, was name-calling in turn.
I am one easily hurt by words — words of affirmation is one of my top “love languages.” So flinging words unfairly is the last thing I’d want to do. But I did attach the word “bully” to our friend in this instance because it seemed the most accurate description of what I had witnessed. We pray-ers have been accused of bullying over and over, so I was bringing this word, bully, into the light: what is it, and what does it look like?
In consulting an online dictionary, I find the definition of “bully” described thus: “A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.” And I have to say, that is what I witnessed that day.
But maybe it’s leaving it there that is the problem. Maybe the discussion can be advanced by asking: What makes a bully? Because we weren’t born bullies. Bullies are taught to be that. As innocent children, future bullies watch, experience, absorb, and then become what they have seen modeled to them.
And since we are all sinners, it’s likely that at some point, we’ve probably all towed the line on the bully spectrum in some form. We have all likely used our strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. In a way it’s part of our fallen human nature — a part that we are inclined toward but must fight against.
Jesus came to remind us that there was another way to go about things, and that his way would be the way to peace. We must keep returning to that.
And yet, if I see bullying, I think it’s okay to name it as such; not to name-call but to point out truth. And yet in the midst of that, I will be praying for hardened hearts to melt, and that those harmed by the bullying will have the strength to endure it and not retaliate in kind.
I hope that in having witnessed bullying on the sidewalk like I did a couple weeks back, I can be reminded, and remind others, that we are all weak and must lean on God’s strength to not fall to the kind of behavior that would have us intimidating those with less power; that, rather, we would use our power for the good.
The kids who showed up today brought so much hope to my heart. God bless them, and praise God for his consolations.