Why will half a million people be smiling this Wednesday?
Why, as they walk in protest of one of the greatest tragedies this nation has ever known, will there be laughter? Why will there be singing? Why will there be little ones running about, teens walking arm in arm, and adults hugging, chatting, and catching up with long absent friends?
Because it’s a March for Life, which means it’s an event shot through, from first to last, with hope.
If you want to understand the March for Life, if you want to understand the pro-life movement in general, it starts with hope. That’s the key. That’s the real difference between those who oppose abortion and those who support it. The first is an act of hope. The second is an act of despair.
It’s simple: When a mother chooses life, she chooses to hope. She hopes for her unborn child. She hopes for his or her future. She hopes for her own future. She hopes in the love of her friends. She hopes in the grace of God. And she hopes in herself. She hopes that no matter how young or ill equipped or scared she might be, she can still bring someone beautiful into the world. Maybe she’ll raise that someone. Maybe she’ll entrust that someone to another. Either way, she hopes.
Not so the mother who chooses abortion.
No woman ends her child’s life in an act of hope. Abortion is almost universally an act of despair. It’s the act of a woman who, in her fear, believes her only choice is the death of her child. Maybe she fears the life her child will lead. Maybe she fears the life she’ll lead. Maybe she fears her parents or the child’s father, the loss of her job or the loss of her health. In the end, it’s all the same. Her fear of the future, not her hope for the future, determines the choice she makes. And that choice is to despair.
That difference—the difference between hope and despair—is why those of us marching on Wednesday will be smiling.
We march, in the cold and the wet and the wind, because we are full of hope. We hope for the child. We hope for the parents. And we hope for this country. We hope that we haven’t walked so far down the path of death and despair, selfishness and fear that we can’t turn back. We hope that we can change. We hope that despite four decades of legalized abortion, all is not lost, that we can still become the kind of country that doesn’t enshrine despair in law.
All that hope produces joy. It spills over in smiles and laughter. It turns what could be a death march into a celebration of life.
If you’re watching from home, you won’t likely know that. If the media covers it at all, they usually show the 12 angry counter-protestors, hurling obscenities at the marchers near the Supreme Court (no hope there!), plus the exceptions that prove the rule—the bull-horn-wielding, bloody-picture-waving souls who may have the best of intentions, but whose spirit and methods usually leave something to be desired.
Again, however, they’re the exception. Hundreds of thousands will walk on Wednesday with a smile on their face. Maybe 100 will frown.
In their limited coverage of the event, the media will also likely give equal time to someone who claims that all those folks marching don’t really care about women and children, that our support for life ends once the baby leaves the womb.
But that’s nonsense. Hope that produces joy isn’t a one day a year thing. It inevitably spills over into action.
Which is why, when the protestors leave Washington, most of us will continue to live in hope. We’ll staff crisis pregnancy centers. We’ll throw baby showers for unwed mothers. We’ll make meals for new moms, buy groceries for families who can’t make ends meet, and pay off their hospital bills when there’s no insurance to do it for them. We’ll adopt orphans of all ages, races, and sexes. We’ll pay the school tuition of children who are not our own. We’ll sit with the sick in the hospitals, and we’ll visit the elderly in the nursing homes.
And again, we’ll do it all because we hope. We hope that the smallest acts, done with great kindness, can change the world. We hope that love, freely given, can counter fear. We hope that joy, freely expressed, can dispel despair. We hope that our hope can give others hope.
So, although I mourn every life lost through abortion, I’ll be smiling at the March. I’ll pray while I walk, but I’ll also laugh. I’ll wink at babies, maybe skip with a godchild or two (depending on who we see), and definitely throw back a pint or two of cider afterwards.
On Wednesday, I will be choosing to celebrate life all. I will be choosing to hope. And while I do, I’ll be praying that someone, somewhere, sees our celebration and decides to do the same.
Please, join me.