Do You See What I See?

Editor’s note. This story first ran many years ago in National Right to Life News. We’ve run it between Thanksgiving and Christmas virtually every year since and it has consistently garnered more response than almost any article we’ve ever run. It was also composed before passage of the historic ban on partial-birth abortion. In many ways it would be a perfect fit to substitute the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” This is the last edition of NRL News Today until after Christmas and I thought the many readers of National Right to Life News Today might enjoy “Do you See What I See?” If you do, please share it with friends and family.

DoyouseeIt was late in the afternoon the Saturday after Thanksgiving. My wife, Lisa, and I had established a temporary safe haven in our kitchen free from the usual chaos that comes with the presence of four joyfully rambunctious children. We’d somehow managed to wrest free a few minutes just to read the paper, enjoy a cup of coffee together, and chat. It was nice!

For reasons I did not fully understand at the time, when I read in our local paper that the Salvation Army was experiencing a dramatic shortage in volunteer bell ringers to man its familiar red kettles, I was so shocked I jumped up from the table and searched out the local number.

The gentle lady who answered mistakenly thought I was someone inquiring about a paid position. When I assured her otherwise, she was so pathetically grateful for my willingness to help them help the poor that a wave of shame washed over me.

How many times, I thought guiltily, had I brushed past these magnanimous folks, who patiently waited for some sign my heart was a few degrees warmer than the temperature outside? How many times had I been so self-absorbed that these devoted volunteers simply blended into the brick facades behind them?

I was mortified when I recall that even though I had occasionally given money, never once had I emerged from my self-absorption long enough to actually “see” them, let alone grasp what their silent vigil stood for. Because I had always looked through them, they never really existed for me. I hastily volunteered for several assignments. (In what was surely a feeble attempt at expiation, I made sure that one of them was on my birthday.)

The moral of this story needn’t be belabored to tenderhearted pro-lifers. When our culture “looks” at the vulnerable, all too often there is a failure to recognize and therefore an inability to reach out in love and compassion. This is never more true than in our treatment of the littlest Americans, the unborn child.

However, it wasn’t just because of the news account and the subsequent phone call that I saw these kindly souls with new eyes. I was already predisposed, if you will, because Christmas was approaching, to Christians the celebration of the birth of the Messiah.

Even those who do not share the faith honor Jesus for his unconditional expression of love for widows and orphans, the sick, and the social outcast, his loving admonition to care for the least among us. This most assuredly included little children, as Luke’s poignant gospel account reminds us so beautifully.

Jesus healed out of a deep well of compassion. He restored many whose bodies, hearts, and souls were weighed down with immense physical and emotional burdens. But he was also teaching us a timeless lesson: unless we are willing to open our eyes, we, too, will be blind to the hurting around us.

While it is not my intention to idealize pro-lifers, it would be false modesty to ignore that they demonstrate a tremendous capacity to truly “see” what others either cannot, or choose not to, see. It is no accident that pro-lifers defend unborn babies. Love and concern for the downtrodden, the dispossessed, and the marginalized is what gives their lives a rich unity of purpose.

The great hope of the pro-life movement is that despite our nation’s descents into inhumanity and indifference, the self-image of Americans is deservedly of a good people, blessed in a unique way. And it is because Americans are fundamentally decent people that the significance of the debate over partial-birth abortion cannot be exaggerated.

People needn’t be anywhere near where we are to be virtually sent reeling. Witnessing even a simple line drawing of this abomination can turn opinions inside out. A pseudo-serious support for “choice” in the abstract cannot coexist for very long with the concrete reality of this brutal assassination of helpless children. For many, many people, head knowledge will become heart knowledge and ambivalence will be transformed into empathy.

Our culture has chosen to willfully suppress what it always knew–that unborn children are children yet to be born, a classic example of what historian Russell Jacoby once called “social amnesia.” But the monstrous evil that is partial-birth abortion – – a procedure that is essentially indistinguishable from infanticide – – is shearing away the excuse people have used from the time immemorial to explain away their complicity in evil: “I didn’t know.”

And because eyes are being opened, ears unstopped, and hearts unshackled, what William McKenna once called our “unforced revulsion” at abortion is finding a wider audience. These telltale signs suggest we are cutting through the static of lies and distortions, establishing a clear channel to convey our message of love and hope for mother and unborn child.

We pray that one day soon, the ethos of discrimination and brutality toward the unborn will prove itself to have been an aberration, a loathsome interim ethic. And that glorious day will come because you have proven yourselves to be the antidote to the poison of inhumanity, indifference, and injustice.

Let me say, humbly, bless you for all you have done.