Yesterday I went to my first March for Life in D.C. It was a pretty awesome experience which really deepened my appreciation for three groups of people:
(1) Catholics. A local Catholic Church, Saint John Neumann’s in Ocean Pines, invited me to go to the march with them. They chartered a bus and let everyone ride free. I was impressed with that. I was even more impressed with how warm and welcoming they were. Usually my experiences with Catholics are with ex-Catholics who have fled from Catholicism, so I didn’t know what to expect. What I encountered was a group of friendly people who bent over backwards to make me feel at home among them. Sure, we’ve got some irreconcilable theological differences, but they also showed a genuine interest in Mennonite theology, doctrine, and practice, which I thought was pretty cool. (Plus it was their bus, so it’s not like I was going to stand up and shout, “Well, actually….”) It was kind of weird waking up this morning with Hail Marys running through my head like a power ballad leftover from the ’80s, but at least it was educational.
One of the things that really stood out to me was the community on the bus. People were constantly passing around goodies and sharing everything with one another. Pretzels, water, Gatorade, homemade cookies, wristbands, fliers, rings, M&Ms (plain and peanut)… it just went on and on. I’m convinced that if we’d gotten stuck on the side of the road, someone would have opened their bag and pulled out a pot roast.
As much as I enjoyed spending time with the Catholics on the bus, I was absolutely floored when I got to the actually rally and saw an endless sea of Catholics filling the mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument. (I don’t know how many people were there; last year’s tally was estimated between 250,000 – 400,000.) I really didn’t know what to expect, but I guess I thought I’d see a lot more Christian groups other than Catholics. I’m sure there were Protestants there (like the handful from our bus), but the thousands of signs with church names on them all appeared to be Catholic. It gave me a deeply disturbing thought: What if the Catholics were not so passionate about this critical issue? WHERE IS THE REST OF THE CHURCH?????
(2) Old people. Usually this term is thrown around derisively and dismissively in our society. I can no longer see it that way. When I refer to old people, I mean it as a term of respect. I don’t know how many people were on our bus–I’d estimate maybe 40 or 50. Three of them were younger than me. Nearly everyone else was in their 60s or 70s, and there were even several in their 80s. And these were people who met at 7:00 a.m. to go on a three-hour bus ride, stand outside in 20-degree weather for three hours or so, walk around D.C. in a massive crowd, and then ride another three hours back. What I’m saying, folks, is these guys are troopers. Most of them are too old to even have had a legal abortion since Roe v. Wade. But they’re putting their beliefs into action. That’s what I respect so much: They’re actually DOING something! It’s like when I go to our recycling center each week. I’ve seen someone my age or younger just a couple times. Usually it’s the older folks. Why are younger people talking about the environment but not showing up to do something as simple as recycle? Whenever I think of old people, I’ll no longer picture retired folks sitting around drinking tea and reading the newspaper and grumbling about “young people these days.” Instead, what will come to mind are a sturdy group of dedicated people with such deep conviction that they’re doing what “young people these days” should be doing. What was my generation doing? I have no idea. Probably stuff that seems urgent but is possibly quite meaningless once we look at it from beyond the end of our own noses. Older people have a perspective that helps them see what truly matters. And when they do something about it, especially something very inconvenient and uncomfortable, I have a profound respect for them.
(3) Politicians. Well, some of them. Don’t worry, I haven’t gone over the deep end. I have to admit I’m still just as jaded and cynical as ever. Well, almost. Three dozen politicians stepped to the microphone yesterday in front of a countless multitude and publicly identified themselves with the pro-life movement, an association which is surprisingly controversial (it’s mind-blowing to think that opposing the killing of children is controversial, yet that’s how perverse our society is). These were not spinsters visiting a midweek women’s Bible study at the height of election season to try to garner votes with a charming smile. This is a group of largely freshmen representatives who are riding into the Beltway with a resounding victory at the polls just two months ago. They were quoting Scripture and speaking bluntly. Of course that doesn’t mean I bought into all their promises and friended them all on Facebook, but it was pretty cool to see that hey, maybe there are a few people with conviction sitting in that dome of corruption that looms over the capital city.
Next year I look forward to going on my second Catholic field trip!