“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” ~ It’s a Wonderful Life
I grew up in Newport News, Virginia, and, as a teenager, I was not a very good driver. In 1991, after one minor traffic violation too many, the judge ordered me to serve 40 hours of community service in the emergency room of the hospital. It was there that I met a child who changed my life forever. I will call him “Clarence.”
The meeting was most unexpected but I am convinced it was not by chance. One night, as I walked down the hallway of the emergency room, my co-worker, another “court kid,” excitedly called me into a storage room where there was a white container on the counter. He said, “Look in there!” Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see. I peered into the container and, at first, noticed it was full of liquid. Looking more closely, in the liquid was a baby. It was “Clarence.” He had died. I imagined his mother had suffered a miscarriage.
In the seconds, minutes, hours, days and years leading up to this moment, I had not really considered when life begins, or thought about life issues in general. As far as I was concerned, it was none of my business. “Clarence” made it my business. I understood at that moment that I was looking at a baby, and there was no way around that. I thought to myself, “Look at how this moment is affecting you. Now imagine this moment happening by choice. Imagine this moment happening to a mother because she has been told this is her only option. This moment is happening many times every day, and has been happening many times every day for a long time. How could you stand by silently all this time?”
Soon after, my boss stepped in and sealed the container and handed it to me saying, “I need you to carry this to the lab.” I took the container and carried it down an empty hallway. All I could think about was “Clarence” and what his life could have been, and the pain that his parents must have been going through. A steady stream of tears ran down my cheeks and amidst my sorrow, I had a new understanding, a new value of life, and a new mission.
Although “Clarence” may have never taken a breath outside of the womb, his life made a profound difference in my life. In fact, that is why I named him “Clarence” for my story after the character “Clarence” in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He’s the one who uttered theline quoted at the beginning of this article.
Meeting “Clarence” made me think about those babies who lose their lives because of a choice. How many holes have been left in our world due to the lack of respect for life? Countless. Each year, in January, I lead a pilgrimage to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., where thousands of people from all over the country come together to take a stand for life: the lives of the unborn, the life of the mother carrying the baby, the lives of the fathers, the elderly, the sick and dying, the lives of the disabled, of military members, of the innocent and the guilty; the life of every person.
The March is only part of the pilgrimage. Our pilgrimage begins here at home in our words and our actions each day. If we want the March for Life to be effective, we must be champions for its cause each day. We each have a voice. Take a stand for God and His truth. The March for Life provides an opportunity for all of those voices to come together as one. We march to speak the truth in love, and we stand united for all who cannot stand for themselves, for those who feel alone, for those who feel cast aside. We stand for the dignity of all life.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
By Chris Rogers, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries