As he approached from across the street, I sensed another wanderer was about to give us a piece of his mind.
Ignoring the crude edges in the telling of his story, I tried listening to the heart of it.
“Her mom didn’t want to keep our baby, but I said, ‘No way you’re gonna do that,” he said. “She’s 20 now,” he continued, admitting it’s been tough – he’s still behind on child support. “But she’s here. She’s here!”
The smile on his face as he spoke life about his daughter, and his gratitude, revealed his heart and made us smile.
This middle-aged soul from the street reminded us that though few of us are perfect parents, that we are parents at all is a divine gift. And even when a child comes into the world in less than ideal circumstances, that doesn’t make them any less than fit for life in God’s eyes.
Yes, the ideal would have been for him to be with his daughter, to be fully supporting the family, for them to be intact. But God, like this dad, still saw that where there’s life, there’s hope.
“I’ll pray for your daughter, and for you,” I said as he strode on.
These stories that come forth from the mouths and hearts of those who pass by the corner where abortions happen each Wednesday in Fargo are raw and real. Those who share them often have seen the worst of life, so all pretenses are gone.
In their survival mode, it seems, truth springs forward. And the truth, as they reveal to us on the sidewalk time and again, is this: life is everything, and it is good.
Not long after he swept past us, a young couple approached the facility. Watching them slip through our grasp, our hearts broke. They were young and beautiful, possibly college students with grand plans, but an obstacle they couldn’t get past: a life within.
In keeping their eye on a worldly prize, it seemed likely, they couldn’t deal with the divergence. They were blinded, possibly, toward the reality that the life already turning within would have been their most amazing accomplishment; worth more than any diploma, sparkling internship, shining career, or white-picket-fenced home.
The week prior, another beautiful couple, professional in attire, sneaked past us and into the facility. We hadn’t even had a chance to give them our literature or words of hope; their appearance had thrown us for a loop.
Juxtaposing these three scenarios, I can’t help but see how having more can hold us captive; how riches and lofty dreams might interfere with God’s plan for our lives, causing us not to see more, but less.
It reminds me of my own life, and how, as our family was growing, some around us grew nervous with each new-baby announcement. We had our perfect family – first a boy, then a girl. It couldn’t be more ideal, so why push it?
But with each child, our faith had grown, and with it, our hearts. I found it harder to share our news with friends and family, knowing we’d be judged. Many did, but my father was the exception we could always count on. Having grown up poor in a family of eleven, the youngest boy of nine kids, he had a deep sense of life’s inestimable value.
We could always call him with the news of life without fear and trepidation. “That’s great!” he’d say. “Wonderful news.” And I’d cling to that, even in my fear of how we’d make it work.
Of course, we don’t have to grow up poor or be in a destitute situation to appreciate life. God always puts forth a life-giving vision. But, through sheer observation on the sidewalk and in examples from my own life, I’m seeing how abundance or comfort may impede our ability to zero in on the essence of God’s pure plan by making it harder for us to be flexible; thus, to trust in God.
Perhaps we would do well to ask God not for riches, but for just what is needed to do his will – no more nor less.
As I continue my Lenten journey, fasting, praying and almsgiving, I will ask God to give me just what is needed to carry out his plan, so that I can see through his eyes, like the broken, but wise middle-aged man whose path crossed with ours, for just a few moments, on the sidewalk.
[Note: I’ve been writing about my experiences on the sidewalk Downtown Fargo on Wednesday, the day abortions happen at our state’s only abortion facility, for a year now for New Earth magazine — the official news publication of the Fargo Diocese. I think these stories are worth repeating, so I’ll begin doing so here after original publication, including playing catch-up with the 11 I wrote in 2017. 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 Feb. 2018 issue.]