|People often mistakenly assume all members of a family share the same values. Sometimes I do it myself. Like the day in May when my strong-minded daughter and I were rolling along the Trans Canada Highway through New Brunswick, heading for Toronto via Ottawa. As we whizzed along, I asked, “Going to join me in the pro-life walk when we get to Ottawa?”
“There are lots more effective ways to spend your time than marching against abortion,” declared this independent thinker. Like helping at a shelter, or working for Birthright, she elaborated. “I’ll help you find them, but I won’t walk with them,” she added firmly.
When we arrived in the city, we arranged to meet my long-time friend Ann on the Hill before the march, so I wouldn’t have to walk alone. But by the time we had navigated the unfamiliar streets, found a parking lot, and hurried up the hill, the procession had begun. Anxiously, I scanned faces as the marchers wound past me. No Ann.
As the end of the procession came in sight, I realized that if I was to join them, I’d better do it soon. But everyone else seemed to be part of a provincial or regional group. “I guess I’ll have to be a crowd of one,” I finally said to my daughter.
“Oh, all right, I’ll go with you,” she said. At my surprised look, she added, “I don’t want you to walk alone.”
Moments later, someone addressed a nearby walker as “Mr. Hof”.
“Hof? Are you the Campaign Life John Hof I read about in The Interim?” I asked. He was. I introduced myself as a long-time writer for the paper. Unfortunately for my self-esteem, he didn’t recognize the name at all. Not even when I spelled it.
That seemed the perfect moment to introduce my daughter. “Judi from Halifax. John from B.C.”
“Oh, I used to live in B.C., on the Sunshine Coast,” she said. And a B.C.-related conversation took off. When it morphed into an animated discussion of music and the arts, I drifted back to connect with other pro-lifers behind us.
And so, in the company of a key member of the political action wing of the pro-life movement, my reluctant daughter took part in the March for Life after all.
For some reason, this reminds me of another walk for life in Ottawa. A candlelight procession in 1992, part of a Human Life International conference.
For weeks prior to the conference, a pro-choice network had openly recruited protesters to counter HLI with “a festival of sexuality.” On the night of the opening mass at St. Patrick’s Church, a few blocks from the Houses of Parliament, 500 demonstrators stood behind barricades near the church, screaming insults. After mass, well over 1,000 people formed a candlelight procession. The sight seemed to further provoke the protesters, for their din became so loud you literally couldn’t hear your own voice. Still, we pro-lifers moved steadily on toward Parliament Hill, murmuring prayers.
Eventually the jeering pro-abortion demonstrators attached themselves to the end of the candlelight procession. Still chanting and yelling obscenities, they literally “walked in darkness” – unaware that they themselves had become part of a march for the unborn. As I reflect upon these two walks in Ottawa, I see in my mind’s eye another procession, up another hill, in another city, 2,000 years ago. It too was on behalf of those who could not help themselves. Then, as now, some walked with love and concern. Some were reluctantly pressed into service. Some walked in darkness, jeering and taunting. Some bystanders felt only irritation that the street was temporarily blocked off. Some were deeply touched.
That walk changed lives. Eventually it changed society. And I wonder: did being part of the 1992 procession change any of the jeering tag-alongs? Will the 2003 walk change any of us?
Undoubtedly, just the effort to be there, just being witnesses to each other and to the world, has changed each of us in ways we may not yet recognize. We are assured that where evil exists, good people are always raised up, nurtured, trained, and groomed to combat it. And we are being groomed.Our efforts, our witnessing, our “walking for life” will change our society. Eventually. If we continue to walk the walk, and talk the talk.