It was afternoon, and many of the prayer advocates had gone home. My friend and I had only recently shown up to cover the shift when most women are leaving, their wombs either already emptied or preparing, through a pill, to evacuate the living child within.
From the edge of the sidewalk in front of our state’s only abortion facility, a pickup stopped, parking across the street directly in front of us. It didn’t concern us; vehicles come and go along this busy pathway all day long.
We soon realized the driver was approaching us. Recognizing his face, I felt assured. I’d seen him many times at Mass, so likely, he was friend not foe.
Though he could well have been there to do business with one of the adjoining shops, it quickly became apparent that we were the reason for his visit. The escorts had all gone by now, so he had an easy entry. “I just wanted to thank you for what you’re doing out here,” he said. And then he pressed a $100 bill into the hands of my best prayer buddy. “Buy some hot chocolate or something. Again, thank you.”
After a brief conversation with the man, he jumped back into his pickup and left, leaving us warmed—no hot chocolate needed.
How many times had we stood there, watching the escorts offer their donuts and coffee to the volunteers who come to bring women into the facility with the firm purpose of abortion? Yes, they believe they are helping. No, we are not the only ones who deserve to be warmed on a chilly winter’s day. But in facing these frequent gestures toward those operating or helping the abortion facility, the mind begins to ponder what’s at the heart of it all.
At their simplest, I see these actions as the giver doing something charitable from their perspective. But it’s more than a warm drink and a treat, hand warmers, or cash. In reaching out at this particular juncture of our city, on this specific day, it becomes a movement of the heart. That movement declares something. One is either professing support for abortion, or not.
Every day, we are faced with hundreds of choices. In those, we either advance toward God or away from him. Sometimes we make the right choice, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes those choices are weightier than others. They can even have eternal consequences. As sinners, we must all weigh these decisions every day. It’s part of being human. We won’t always get it right.
But when people show up on the sidewalk with kindness toward those of us who have committed a certain portion of our lives to this cause—and not always with ease—it is about so much more than whatever the gift might be.
Several years ago, I wrote about an unkempt passerby on the sidewalk who gave us money and thanked us, not unlike the man who stopped by more recently. His gift was a crumpled-up dollar bill. It’s one I keep pinned to a bulletin board in my bedroom to remind me of God’s beautiful and often surprising consolations toward those who do his will.
As I’ve reflected on these two gifts given years apart, I see them so much the same. The wrinkled buck was just as valuable as the $100 bill, even though one has more monetary worth. Both came from the heart, represented the stirrings of the conscience, and touched us deeply.
Not long before Ben Franklin’s visit, another man who cannot come to the sidewalk to pray with us, but whose heart has been moved by our efforts, sent a Christmas card with cash through the mail. “Thank you and your friends for all you do to stop abortions. Use the money to buy items to help your cause.”
We’ve never solicited money for our volunteer efforts, and please know that mentioning this here is not that, either. What I wish to convey is this: these moments tell of God’s provisions. When we do his will, he will see to it that we are provided for—whether monetarily, through prayer, or in the friendships we form along the way.
I am writing this in January, the Sanctity of Life month. It has been a hard year, but God is with us. Please be assured, the hearts of those who love him continue to beat brightly. Now, to ensure that the voiceless for whom we speak will have that same chance.
[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 Feb. 2021 issue.]