I have been involved in sidewalk counseling for over three years now and haven’t had a single ‘save’. So, why should you be there at the abortion clinic trying to offer help when there is no visible sign of change of heart encountered personally? I mean, when there is no turnaround, when there is not a single sign of a child’s life has been saved because you were there? These are few questions that I encountered, continue to encounter and happen to share with some of my friends doing the same work. These questions might sound silly and could also be answered in simple ways but it’s never enough for those in similar position. I always found them to be unsettling. But lately I’ve been looking deeper into what I experience standing at these places where babies die every day.
I do sidewalk counseling at one of the most busiest abortion clinics in United States. They’re open seven days a week, from 7 am – 10 pm. Even on Christmas day and New Years day. Below are some of my experiences which bring reassurance every time the same question raises in my head. Why should I be here in front of this clinic when I don’t get a turnaround, when I don’t get to save the life of a child?
Monsignor Reilly of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants introduced me to this place. I did what he asked me to do. “Stay there and give this material to the mothers as they come, tell them either their friend or someone in need would find help in this information and give them the rosary.” As much as I was terrified at being in front of an abortion clinic, I was beyond terror in the idea of handing out rosaries in the public. I did it anyway. At the end of each day I kept telling him : I’m not sure if am called to do this, am not good at speaking to people, am an introvert and I like it that way, this is out of my comfort zone and most of all my ultimate card is ” I don’t get any turnarounds” which i thought was a sign to me that I wasn’t meant to do Sidewalk Counseling. Every time I came up with any of these excuses he used to say, “Don’t say that, you do not know how many lives your’e saving. People don’t really come back and say but there are hearts transformed and babies saved.” This wasn’t enough for me. But I continued doing what I was doing for months and all of a sudden these things started happening to me. When I began to ponder on those incidents, I began to find my answers. May be these might be of help to you in your sidewalk journey.
- Yesterday a man kept starring at me in an anticipation of having a conversation. After 10 minutes he came up and asked, “what’s happening here?” I told him that this was an abortion clinic which performs abortions up to 6 months. I could the see shock in his eyes. He kept shaking his head in disbelief saying “they’re playing God, this is life” and so on. We kept talking about the place and the help offered to the mothers etc. He said he was recently baptized and going through a difficult time himself with questions about the purpose of life and meaning of his existence and that he was being tempted to commit suicide. He kept giving himself reassurance as he shared his battle with thoughts of suicide. I could see how depressed and broken one must be to try to find help and hope that with a simple sign of God (I was holding bunch of Rosaries in my hand ) that they try to do the right thing. I reminded him to hold on and that times of rest is on the way and that he’s precious in God’s eyes. His eyes welled up. He said he will try to remind himself about that. I was present in front of the clinic that day just for him to know that God loves him and that his life matters.
- I happen to speak with a young woman the same day as I offered her the brochure along with the rosary. She never knew this place performed abortions too. I told her how as she sat in the waiting room some babies get to live and some get to die. She was shocked because she was there for her general check up. I encouraged her to find some other place. On her way back she came to me and asked how I do this work because she wanted to help. I gave her the number of Sisters of Life to get started. I was present in front of the clinic that day to show her that she can be a witness to life. Who knows, she might begin Sidewalk counseling some day or become a prolife warrior herself.
- Last month I was in my usual spot. I should confess it was a slow day for me. I didn’t handout much brochures or approach many people. It was one of my low days. As I was about to leave with a empty and indifferent heart a woman came close to me and asked what I was doing. I explained myself and she said “I don’t believe in abortions, but I can’t say to someone else, you know there are women who get raped”. Uhh rape! really! I’ll try my best to handle this I told myself. I agree with you partly I said, but the child didn’t rape her right, would you say the child is a victim or perpetrator? She looked at me and suddenly turned her gaze away saying, true- but let me tell you, her “true” wasn’t loud enough. I spoke with her for next 10 minutes all of a sudden she began to cry. She said she was the 9th child to her mother, her mom had her and her sisters when the father left her, she brought them all up by herself and she could never see anymore more stronger than her mom. I reminded her of women’s strength and love is stronger than death. She thanked me and she wants to meet her mom right away and thank her for having her. She said “I could have easily ended up as an abortion myself, i should go and meet my mom it’s her birthday this week”. I was there that day at the clinic just for this to happen.
- A couple were rushing past by me after parking their car. The husband got curious at the bunch of rosaries and asked me if it was for sale. I told him “It’s free, but could you please say a prayer for the mothers and the babies inside please, this is an abortion clinic.” He was shocked, called his wife, she was ahead of him so he shouted, “honey this is an abortion clinic”. May be this is why the clinic gets mad at me. lol. She came back, they both took a rosary and promised to pray. I was there at the clinic so people would know human beings are killed and that the modern day gulags, Dachau and Ravenbrucks are among us even today. Not outside the city but right in the middle of the city.
- I handed out a brochure to a woman who came of the clinic with my usual explanation. She said “Oh no, am not doing abortion, am trying to have baby”. I tried to bring her to senses as how could babies get to live and get killed at the same place. She pulled her phone out and showed the picture of her 17 year old son who she had even when the father of the child left her. “thank you so much for doing this” she said. I encouraged her to find some other place for her prenatal care. She knew what it was to have a child when the father has abandoned, she showed me how important it is that someone is in front of abortion clinics to remind moms that they can do it. Hopefully she finds another prenatal provider.
- A Muslim woman stopped and asked me what I was doing. She stopped by looking at my nose ring thinking if I was a bengali or bangladeshi. I told her am neither. She thought I was an evangelist. I told her I give rosaries to people since a lot of them need a sign of God which gives them hope, I don’t force it on people and explained her about the place and the work. She sounded strong in her position against abortion and promised to pray. We had such a good conversation even though we were from different religion. I was there that day and found out no matter the difference of religion people can see the objective truth. May be someday sidewalk counseling will become a reality in India.
- A man who works for the city and maintains the sidewalk has been observing me for couple of days. He came up and asked me if I was evangelizing and what church I go to. I explained to him about the real purpose (may be I was evangelizing indirectly, lol, who knows) He asked for a rosary and promised to pray. He prayed with me for few minutes before leaving and encouraged me to continue my work. I was there showing people what this place is about, what’s going on inside and collecting prayers. Those who know the power of prayer can see what can happen and what is possible.
I haven’t had a turnaround. I do not know if a mother changed her heart and chose life for her baby. But each day that I am at this place people stop to thank me for what I do, remind me that they’re glad somebody is there, get to know that it’s a place where children are put to death, promise to pray for this evil to end etc. These are far more visible signs for me to be there and do what I have been doing.
Monsignor once said “at the Calvary Jesus was put to death, the disciples went back discouraged and consumed by fear and despair, but the reality is He rose again on the third day. This place is modern day Calvary. You cannot leave the babies die alone. You have to be there to show them that they’re being loved. they’re innocent and go to God but the mother who comes out, comes to know the truth of abortion and for her we’ll be a sign of God’s unconditional love. Since she has seen the truth about abortion, she’ll think about you the next time.We’re there not simply to save bodies but to save souls.”
If you’re someone in similar position as I am remember, when you’re there in front of the clinic you’re there for the babies as you would be for Jesus on the Cross in Calvary. The children will know that you were there for them, fought for them, prayed for them and no child should be left to die alone and unloved.