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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mosquitoes, Other People's Children, and My Own Frail Nature

One of my favorite quotes has always been:  "If you think you're too small to be effective, then you have never been in bed with a mosquito."

Fairly self-explanatory, I think, as most of us have had the experience.  I think most of us have also had our George Bailey moments, when we wonder whether we make a difference to anyone, whether our being here is of any significance at all.  Of course, our friends and loved ones are usually anxious to reassure us, and those of us who have faith understand that there is a higher purpose that we cannot yet see, but there are times when we still doubt our own self-worth.

Which brings me to a child who will probably never know the incredible impact he has had on my life.

This started in March.  I overheard a conversation among a group of women that rather distressed me.  They were discussing a baby.  The mother, no longer a young woman, was being advised by her doctor that her unborn child was at enormous risk of being born with myriad disabilities.  His primary basis for this was her age.  He suggested that she consider aborting the child.  The conversation was very matter of fact, full of jokes about being called Grannie should she opt to carry to term, how hard she had worked to lose that last forty pounds, and how thoroughly inconvenient a baby would be with the other children just leaving home.  What made this so particularly horrendous for me was that she was already showing, and was cradling the child between her hands, one above and the other below the obvious bulge in her belly.

I wanted to say something, anything to discourage this woman from killing her child.  Instead, I went back to my office, sat down at my desk, and cried.

I found myself wanting to do something to save this child, to do something that would convince the mother not to do this thing, not to kill her child just because he might not be perfect. I wanted her to understand how damaging this would be to her own soul and happiness.  It wasn't just a matter of killing a baby, but of killing THIS baby, a child that would have a very particular and unique way of looking at the world, a child that might have her eyes, share her birthmarks.  A child that would grow into an amazing individual and make a wonderful parent or spouse, or maybe he would be a gifted artist or musician.  Perhaps he would just be that taciturn fellow who grumbles a lot but can always be counted on to help you start your car on cold mornings, and who always makes sure you're ok after a storm.  There was purpose there, cradled between her hands, a tiny being who could, and would, change the world in his own peculiar way, if she would only let him live.

"A person's a person, no matter how small."

This was a turning point for me.  At first I thought of how horrible it was that these women could discuss abortion so casually, as if it were not a big deal.  Something so evil, so intrinsically wrong, and they were discussing it as if  choosing between paper and plastic, just another decision to be made, another choice in the automat of life.

Then I started thinking of my own choices,  my own sins and weaknesses, most of them more damaging to me than to others, but something inside me suddenly wanted more than absolution.  I found myself needed to make reparation for the harm I had done with some of my stupid decisions over the years, for those things that had changed the course of my life and ultimately, lessened my purpose.  I could, finally, see the end result of my chief sins, and for the first time, I could see their impact in the world immediately around me.

It was a shock, and has led me to make some serious changes in my life, beginning with my prayer life and moving outward into my marriage. From there, it has taken on a momentum of its own, and seems destined to change my life into something it should have been long ago.

It has made me long to be holy.  Not in a pious way that finds me mumbling my beads and muttering prayers, draped in sackcloth and ashes beneath the feet of a gargantuan crucifix, but rather in how I live and in how I approach others.  I want to draw people to God by example, to show them what is good in life and how important life is, how very important life is.   There is so much good in all of us, not perfection, to be sure, but there is no one who does not reflect God in some way, shape or form.  We are all created in His image, in His likeness, and He formed us, each one of us, individually, placing us in our mother's wombs to be cradled as He was, to be born and to fulfill our place in His creation, that which we've already damaged so by our sins, and which we damage again and again in this, the destruction of our children.

And so I cried that day at my desk, drifting eventually into prayer, and from prayer to an examination of conscience that was more painful than anything I'd ever done.   It has brought me closer to the cross, and to God, and has reduced me to needing both in ways that I have never before admitted.

 A beautiful and healthy boy was born a few weeks ago.   He has ten little fingers, ten little toes, an incredible set of lungs and very intelligent eyes just like his mother's, already an influence upon this world, even before he was born.  

Someday, I hope to thank him.