Initial hostility that turns into genuine friendship reminds us never to burn bridges

By Dave Andrusko

One of the many terrific workshops I visited while covering National Right to Life’s annual convention was put on by the charismatic Pat Castle, the founder and sustainer of Liferunners.org. Being a runner of very modest distances and very much impressed with his presentation, I signed up and received a very nice blue Tee-Shirt.

Last night I wore it at the gym. To be honest I completely forgot I had it on. So I admit sheepishly I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why people keep taking a glance at me.

It was not until a young man smiled and gave me the equivalent of a thumbs-up that I remembered I was wearing my Liferunner’s shirt. (By the way looking back, I had sensed no hostility from anyone.)

This is the long way round of getting to the point: what can happen when people realize you work for the largest pro-life organization in the U.S. which, obviously, is involved in a contentious, multi-decade- long fight.

Not so long ago I wrote about how one of the sharpest members of a class I teach learned I worked for National Right to Life. In today’s instant access media world, she could have found out a hundred different ways. (In fact if you go to Google and type in “Dave Andrusko,” you get 26,700 results. Take out the quotation marks and you get 46,300. Who knew?)

I had not known anything was amiss until she angrily emailed me to announce she could not possibly be in the same room as someone who held my views on “reproductive issues.” I emailed back in a gentle and non-confrontational manner, asked her to reconsider. But to my chagrin, I neither saw nor heard back from her again. It seemed I had lost a member whose contributions I genuinely valued.

A few months later, a follow-up. I wrote about an experience that had taken place 7:30 am that very morning. I heard my name being called in the parking lot of the local Planet Fitness where I work out. I turned around and there she was, with that familiar winsome smile on her face.

It would not be right to share the specifics of what she said, so, of course, I won’t. What would be right to share is that she said she had been considering coming back to class for months. I looked forward to seeing her soon. Post-script #1. She came back the following Sunday.

I still do not know the specifics of what triggered her very, very intense anger. It was certainly nothing I had said in class. Or what convinced her that her response was disproportionate, out of line, or both.

What I do know is that what took place that morning reaffirmed one of the guiding principles of my life, in and out of the Movement: never burn bridges.

Post-script #2. She subsequently has experience major health issues and we’ve been in constant contact.