I don’t share this story with people.
Most friends and family members are unaware, oddly enough, of something I’ve realized over time has been one of the top moments of significance in my life. Part of me is honestly afraid to share now–fearing you’ll think more of me when you really shouldn’t, or less of me due to opposing opinions. But in light of the news swirling around our nation, I think it’s time.
Fairly newlyweds still and living on a dime, my husband worked remodeling a low-income apartment complex while I commuted to seminary. One Sunday we were gathered in the common area after church and ran into one of the tenants. He chatted with our circle of Sunday goers and after the typical how’s-life-with-you round of questions, he mentioned his sister was well into her pregnancy and having an abortion that week, due to the fact the doctors recommended–or rather, his words actually stated the belief they were requiring–she have one as the baby would likely be developmentally challenged, if the baby lived at all. He said something about how they didn’t know how to take care of a baby with mental or physical needs, and inferred they didn’t want to, so it was for the best.
All of our faces did the same thing, stumbling to find words to reply, going with variations of, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Someone may have thrown in a “We’ll pray for you” comment for good measure before stepping away for more Styrofoam coffee.
We got in the car and headed home.
But the conversation wouldn’t leave me.
I searched the internet. Printed off papers. Drove to Ben’s work on Monday.
Ben told me the apartment number.
And I walked through the complex in the midday sun with a wad of papers in hand.
When I knocked on the door, I remember how he opened it. I remember the surprise on his face as I explained timidly that I heard what he said on Sunday and wanted to let him know that there were options out there for his sister. Better options. Options that would not only potentially give life to that child, but would likely be healthier, physically and emotionally, for his sister in the long run.
I didn’t throw in the God card.
I’ll never forget how he put the cigarette in his mouth to free his hand, took my papers, paused as he read. How suddenly he swung the door open as he yelled for the whole family to see what I had to say. How grandfather, siblings, and kids neared. How he asked me with genuine curiosity and mild disbelief, spokesperson for the family, “And you really think people adopt kids with special needs?”
A few weeks later we saw him again.
She decided to deliver the baby.
Lord willing, and this brave woman willing, this child is alive today.
Why do I tell this story now?
Because the older I get the more I realize how quick and tempting the bystander effect is. I’m learning that chances, monumental chances, slip in and out of our lives at a moment’s notice, cloaked in insignificant small talk. That if we aren’t careful, we will miss them in our rush to get our Styrofoam coffee.
As Christians, we need to “be prepared in season and out of season” to know what is truth, and follow through without letting ourselves fall into the fretful trap of wondering what all could go wrong as a result.
We may feel powerless over the laws in our nation; we may be heartbroken and even enraged to see that children are being murdered and there seems to be nothing we can do about it. But we can do something. Each of us can shake off the bystander effect and do something.
Find the local pro-life crisis pregnancy center (like mine here), gather supplies, donate. The next time you hear about a couple choosing to adopt, support them with a meal or check. Foster. Read and share books, like The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers. Educate with love. Refuse to accept the status quo as though it cannot ever be different. Because it can.
There are very few crucial beliefs to the Christian worldview. There are a thousand topics not worth arguing over or fighting for. This is not one of them.
Because this is what Christianity stands for. What Christ stood, and stands, for. What we must stand for.
Let us love every soul-given person well, whether old, young, or in the womb.