punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Hazards of Grandma's House

In this post I am not going to talk about the traditional 'hazards' of visiting grandparents' houses (i.e. the kids becoming too spoiled, or unwanted interference in your parenting). Instead, the title refers to the bodily hazards posed by some, shall we say, cultural outdoor landscaping common in the West, especially amongst Latinos. 

You see, I’m Hispanic (don’t let the married surname fool you) and so I’m intimately acquainted with how Latin-American gardens and backyards require an assortment of threatening cacti and rocks that your family has “lifted” from the desert through the years (because we all routinely travel to the southwest, dontchaknow?).  These items feature in our gardens before any consideration is given for the potential of the harm they pose to small children - they are pretty, to be fair.  In this case, it’s decoration over function, unless function means occasionally running to the emergency room (make that the bathroom sink with some rubbing alcohol and some pliers) with your kid.

Also, our yards most likely include algae coated water features and statues of saints.  More on these in a moment.

I’d like to believe that these items are set up in our gardens with the intention of making Hispanic children wiser, stronger and perchance, more pious.  You see, a child acquires the savvy to avoid playing near a cactus plant in an instant.  What better teacher than a prong through your fingertip, or several covering your abdomen, to deter you forever? It's no fun, but, hey, it works!

Also, we learn the verbal code for when anything is dangerous.  For as long I can remember, if we children were in danger of touching something potentially hazardous, my parents would shriek in unison, “Pika-PIKA!” which is commonly used around cactus plants.  It refers to the sharp prick of a cactus' spines.  And so, growing up you know that you should not go near something because it's pika-pika. (If you try this on your kids, keep in mind that it’s mandatory to say ‘pika’ at least twice in quick succession).

Children may also become stronger physically, thanks to these items.  Skin, as we all know, becomes stronger after it has scabbed and scarred.  And let’s not forget the gift of a stronger immune system due to the algae in that germ infested birdbath.  After all, if it doesn’t kill you…

The presence of a saint's effigy may cause a child to make several acts of faith, especially when asking Our Lady or St. Francis of a Assisi to intercede as their soccer ball, yet again, has rolled into that magnet-for-your-toys bed of cacti.  

Alright, I’ve given you a taste of my childhood.  Am I wiser, stronger and more pious due to eventually being able to navigate my parents and grandparents’ backyards without calamity?  I’m not sure, but, as my mom likes to remind me: I survived my youth and am now ‘super’ Catholic.  How much of this I owe to our back garden, I just don’t know.

Fast-forward to my adulthood and having two kids under four years old.  The generation playing out back may have changed but the hazards haven’t. The hazards of grandma’s house, that is (dum dum dum).  

Don’t get me wrong, my kids and I love visiting Nana’s (my grandma or the kids' great-grandma's) and Yaya’s (grandma's or my mom's) houses.  It’s the only 'yard time' my kids get - otherwise we’re at public parks (we don't have a yard). However, unlike those parks, it is with great trepidation that I send them out to "play," read: give me a heart attack every two seconds.  And my reason for my being nervous should be obvious: which objects do you think my kids run for? Every. Single. Time.

You guessed it, the birdbath, the stones and the cactus lined perimeter of Nana’s pool, of course (it's just so fun to run on it really, really fast!).  It never fails that I’m the one beseeching the Our Lady and St. Francis statues, “Please, please don’t let my kids stick their hands in the yucky water, fall on the pika-pika cactus plants or bean each other with the stones!”

I guess my prayers were answered because, the other day, my eighteen month old son took to hurling a ball repeatedly into the microorganism laden bird-bath instead.  He enjoyed the splashing, and I didn’t mind so much about the water getting on his clothes.  What doesn’t kill him, after all…

Yaya’s house (my mom’s place) is a bit more child-friendly – no cactus, just a raised planting bed to bring the spiders up to waist-level for my kids.  Water feature? Check. Disclaimer: it’s not a birdbath, it’s a fountain, but birds bathe in it and it turns green sometimes, so whatever. Stones?  Yup. Lots of them. Virgin Mary statue? Of course!  Need you even ask?  We’re Mexican, after all, and it wouldn’t be a properly, Hispanic garden without one.

I haven’t even gotten started on the dogs and all the fun that goes along with them.  But it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out what could go wrong with those.

Far, far away, on the south coast of England, in my husband’s childhood backyard there’s a lawn, a tree and some hydrangeas, I think.  But wait, they're all strong, wise and pious people too!  So that blows my theory out of the water - the grimy, jello-textured birdbath water, that is.

Mom, grandma, if you both are reading this, first, I love you!  Second, I love most things about your yards - the fruit trees, the 'other' trees (whatever they are - they're nice), the annual salsa plants you both cultivate every year (tomatoes, jalepenos etc).  Oh, but why am I including a link to child friendly play structures here and here so close to Christmas?  I don't know, but let's just say I'd rather the kids be praying to Our Lady as they slid down a slide, rather than into an Ocatillo!

Monday, October 24, 2011

On Loving Those Who It Is Difficult To Like: A Reflection on Last Sunday's Gospel

This Sunday's Gospel gave us the two greatest commandments.  The first is to love God and the second, which is like it, is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

In all honesty, I've never really understood atheism because, to me, loving God seems like a very easy thing to do (I realize that I'm speaking from the perspective of faith).  After all, God is love, all goodness comes from Him, all things work for the good for those who love Him; He is truth, is full of mercy, is a disciplinarian in the best sense, is out for our best interests, and has 'got our backs' with His wise providence.  Even from a solely intellectual perspective, to my mind it seems like such a facile leap from loving the concept of the Judeo-Christian God, to believing in Him, at least in the "having nothing to lose, now that I know who He is," sense.

But the loving of one's neighbor part? Um, yeah, sure I love my neighbor.  I mean, I don’t hate anyone, not even my ‘enemies’... I just assume they’re completely misguided and deficient in some intellectual capacity. Wait, you mean that isn’t love?

I think the second commandment is simultaneously much easier and harder than the first.

Loving one's neighbor is easier than loving God, for some. We can see this in how many of the faith-less are much more loving to others than some of the faith-ful.  The horizontal plane, after all, is the domain of the empirical, where you can 'measure' love by the evidence of human efforts, for example: selfless acts, kind words, as well as money or time we donate to a good cause. These can all be accomplished without inserting God, or the 'vertical' into the scheme.  However, dismissing the 'vertical' aspect of love, as atheists do for the exclusive emphasis on 'horizontal' plane of charity is not without its share of problems.  This is especially true when trying to arrive at the reasons for doing anything good to begin with.  The classic "What’s it all for?" or "Why bother doing any good at all, if there isn’t a heaven?" questions inevitably arise.  But the horizontal can lead to the vertical - how many times do we cast our gaze upward after witnessing a great act of charity on someone’s part?

Loving one's neighbor is also harder than loving God, because the people you’re supposed to love, in themselves, are often the furthest thing from God.  Even those we do genuinely love; we’re lucky if we also like them or want to spend any of our free time with them.

Of course I speak from experience on both sides of the track. I’ve struggled with loving others, and others, I am confident, have struggled with loving me.

I once heard someone say, and perhaps, you too have heard it said, “The person you love the least, that is the most you love Jesus Christ.”

Well, then I want to love everyone with all my being, right, because that is how I want to love the Lord!

Except, then I turn on my computer and realize that those people who make negative comments about my Catholic posts on Facebook are still around and it’s difficult to like them for that.

Then there are the people who ruin social situations because they cause everyone to cringe at every word that falls out of their mouths and it’s nearly impossible to feign any symptom of likeability around them.

Then there are the people who have no sense of ‘boundaries’ and feel at liberty to fling their weight and words at me like I’m a robot with no feelings who is not entitled to any reaction to them – not even a constructive one.

Then there are those that constantly disappoint me with their decisions.

Then there are the self-obsessed ones that are so me-oriented that I just want to roll my eyes at any mention of their ‘problems’ ("My convertible just got a dent and my lap-dog and I are ticked!" Boo. Hoo.).

Then there are the ones who make me uncomfortable because, historically, they’ve vocally declared their opposition to everything I hold sacred.

I’m sure that if I sat and thought about it some more I could add to my list of unlikeable people, but what would be the point?  Friend or enemy, like or dislike, the mandate is the same: love ‘em.  And so to the cyber bullying, socially inept, verbally abusive, and conceited let-downs of the world I go to show them the love of God! Wait, what?

“Lord, it’s just too hard,” I say often, and about many things.  This last Sunday it was about loving one’s neighbor.  “You’re the likable one, Lord!  You are the easy one!  They’re not!” But then, neither am I.

Sometimes I need reminding that I could place myself in any one of my own categories: cyber-bullying – not bullying, per se, however, I admit that I am guilty of leaving an angry comment around cyberspace at times.  Socially inept?  Sure, I  have my moments where I’m the bonehead asking a stupid question or saying odd things.  Verbally abusive? Well, yes, if I’m being very honest.  My husband can attest to this (we’re within the first five years of marriage and we work on forgiveness a lot right now).  Conceited? Yes, I’m tempted to consider myself 'above' others, or their superior at times (my kids temper this, bless their needy little souls).  A let down?  Now this one is humbling. Yes, I have let myself, those around me and God down at various times throughout my life.  And to be sure, I’m not done in that department either.

So what makes me get up in the morning and try again?  It’s simple, really simple.

I’m loved. By others, and by God out of His sheer goodness only.  Think about that for a minute.

So if an unlikeable character like myself is loved by such a good God who has all the reason He needs to smote me from the earth, shouldn’t I at least attempt to extend this to others? And truthfully speaking, the times when I most needed someone to show they cared for me, I was probably at my worst, most unlikeable, humanly speaking.  What a great mercy and severe reality-check it is to be truly loved.

So, I again I go to extend that olive branch to those who may cost me the most in terms of comfort and force upon me the pain of rejection or being bullied.  But as cost goes, it’s the kind of cost where I have everything to gain, and nothing to lose by ‘paying the love of God forward.’ Yes, it's hurts, but I'd liken it to a growing pain that occurs when the membrane of your capacity to love expands.  You know, the best kind of pain and the best sort of love: the kind that loves no matter what.  God’s love for me and everyone.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Steve Jobs and "The Spiderwick Chronicles"

I haven’t been able to shake something that's been haunting me since the passing of Steve Jobs. It’s something that Jobs said before he died.

Before his death, Jobs enlisted a biographer for the sole purpose of leaving his kids with “a better understanding of their father.”  His exact quote was:
"I wasn't always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did." 
Something about his words reminded me of “The Spiderwick Chronicles.”  Briefly, one of the major plots in the story surrounds a brilliant inventor/scientist, Dr. Spiderwick, who is father to a young daughter.  This inventor “discovers” a hidden/invisible world that is enshrouded by ours (it helps that he lives near a forest, of course.) To “access” this world, he invents devices to see it, and he and his little girl attempt to co-exist with its various trolls, fairies and monsters (apparently common household items like peanut butter and salt are all you need...or was it honey and a perimeter of smooth stones? I can't remember.)  Caught up in his discoveries, one day he is literally “taken up” by fairies and his “taking” is witnessed by his helpless daughter.

David Strathairn as Dr. Spiderwick
Decades later, a new family, unfamiliar with Dr. Spiderwick’s inexplicable disappearance, moves into his awesomely creepy house and discovers his diary which contains his discoveries, inventions and various warnings.  When things go pear-shaped the person who they consult is Spiderwick’s daughter who is now elderly.  I won’t spoil the end for you, but needless to say, even though Dr. Spiderwick and his daughter discovered a magical world, and the former had devoted his life to it, what do you think the latter wished for through the years, more than anything?

You guessed it, all she wanted was to be with her dad.

I suppose I couldn’t help but wonder if this is how Jobs’ kids might have felt or feel about their dad.  I suspect something of this sentiment prompted Jobs to leave behind a written account of his life for his children.

Regarding Steve Jobs’ personal life, I don't know much else other than what he himself has said.  He was a very private man.  I live in Silicon Valley and whenever he popped into the Apple Store in Palo Alto, it never failed to be headline news.  And I truly appreciate his genius for inventions and his entrepreneurial skills, and I believe in reverencing the dead.  I therefore mean no disrespect at all when I say that if I personally, as a parent, had to select which of Jobs’s two legacies – his children or his innovations are more important, I would choose his family.  This is not to diminish his contributions to the world, certainly, and I'm not trying to imply that anyone is saying anything to the contrary; I believe that it was his love for his family which prompted Jobs to open up to a biographer to begin with.

The fact remains that, although I use Apple’s products, love Pixar's films, and work on a MacBook Pro, if they had never been invented, would my life still be just as wonderful (i.e. contain all sorts of lasting, non-temporal blessings) without them?  The answer, of course, is yes.

This is because, even if my iPhone or iPod did not, nor ever existed, I would still have the things that, I believe, matter the most: my faith and my family, especially my children.  If someone, long ago, had approached me and asked, "Would you prefer to have a gadget to ease your life at the expense of taking someone away from their family? Or to not have these things at all?"  Again, I would opt for his family above my own convenience every time.

It is therefore with some sadness that I've been reflecting upon Job's words regarding his children, but also with great hope that the love they share transcends any absence that might have been felt during his life and now also, in his death.  His words force us to beg the question, "Is any invention ever worth the time spent away from one's family?" I leave it to Jobs' own children to answer that question.

I have prayed for the repose of the soul of a such a putatively great man, and I continue to pray for his family.  May the family of Steve Jobs find peace in this time of grieving, and may the soul of Steve Jobs rest in peace.  Amen. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Obedience Makes Us Beautiful

I once entertained notions of joining a religious order.  I’ll be honest, I discerned a vocation for a very long time.  I checked out cloistered orders, missionary orders, teaching orders – and then I met my husband and the rest is history.

But it turns out that between the two vocations, religious and holy matrimony, my “problem” in living out the call to both of them, is the same: obedience.  Deep down, I detest being "told" what I should do even when it may benefit me or someone else.  I don't mean obedient as a wife in the Stepford Wife sense (seriously, if my husband sees me ironing something he knows that it must be either Christmas or Easter).  But I do mean that I've located a deeply rooted resistance in myself toward any action/outside force that attempts to tell me what to do, how to dress or which requires that I truly die to myself in some way. I credit being faithful to the Magisterium first to grace, second to its inherent reasonableness and only thirdly to my assent (which is strengthened by a personal relationship with God and Our Lady). All of these factors tend to keep my fallen nature at bay, and I hope, help me to live a charitable life.  But, at times, even as a grown woman, living this way comes with some internal resistance.  That fallen nature I mentioned means that my "obedience problem" or rather, my problem with being obedient occasionally rears its head (and usually when I'm tired, hungry, lonely etc).  Such a problem, of course, is rooted in pride.

I do like to think that I am presently less proud than I once was. I now have children, you see.

Nothing puts you under strict obedience more quickly than having a new little person cradled in the bed next to you completely dependent upon you for each and all of their needs.  In fact, I would even say that pregnancy is where you first experience that sense of total obligation as you take steps to rearrange your life (and your house) around your soon to be arriving, bundled ‘master.’

Now, I’ll be the first one to admit that I didn’t slip into post-partum mode very gracefully.  Even with my husband around at the beginning to help ease the transition when my daughter was born, I still found life with a newborn to be much more demanding than I thought it was going to be.  It was then that, I believe, I received my first ‘instruction’ in obedience – whether I felt like it or not, was enjoying it or not, or believed I was capable or not I still did ‘it.’ I mothered, which was something I had never done before.

They say that if you ever want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.  Well I say that if you ever want to make God chortle, tell him how capable you are.

The truth is, no matter how ‘put together’ you may think you are (and I assumed I had very erudite control over my life, emotions, my beliefs about parenting etc), no matter how prepared you think you are (I had a degree and a career, after all) and no matter how wonderful a person everyone says you are, nothing unearths the rebellion out of you like having to make sleep-deprived decisions all of which entail more and more sacrifice from you in a way you never thought possible before.

But, in way, there’s true beauty in that.

Did Christ know whether or not He could go through suffering and death upon a cross?  I don’t know, but He did it and it’s kind of like that with being ‘obedient to God’s will’ as a parent.  Can I go through with parenting everyday for the rest of my life?  I don’t know, but I’m going to do it with trust that God is forming the image of Christ in me.  And that’s beautiful.

Disobedience, in contrast is ugly. Disobedience is the reason the world is in the state it's in now.

And here’s the irony.

Now that my children are toddlers, guess who’s expecting obedience from them?  Yup, me.  And guess when things are the most peaceful in our home?  That’s right – when all are obedient to each other, children to mom and dad, mom and dad to their vocation and all are obedient to God. With obedience we become what we are meant to be.  With obedience we become beautiful because obedience is beautiful.

Bl. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, obedient to doing "something beautiful for God," pray for us!
Artwork Credit: Mt. Angel Abbey

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why Not Supporting a 'Good' Cause Can Be Truly Compassionate

Unlike what our critics sometimes say about us, the Christian perspective is not overly negative, but nor is it naively optimistic. 

However, I appreciate that this is sometimes difficult to tell from an outsider’s perspective.

Consider the following example.

You’re at the grocery store and about to pay your bill when the cashier asks, “Would you like to donate to such-and-such an organization or a foundation-for-this-cure?”  Or “Would you like to donate to end (insert disease) forever?”  

Of course the answer, especially to the phrasing of the last question for all Christians is an emphatic, “Yes!  Of course I want for disease-x to be eliminated!”  

But hold on a minute. It’s more complicated than that.

Now, if you’re a Christian up to speed on some of the ugly-methods-in-the-name-of-a-good-cause-scientific research conducted in the medical field today, such a seemingly benign request to support what appears to be an indisputably worthy endeavor should make several bells go off in your head.   Why?

Thanks to a wonderful invention called the internet, you now know that many organizations use morally reprehensible methods, for instance, the destruction of human life, in their 'quest for a cure.'  And they do so despite sound evidence that such practices are unnecessary, not to mention completely unproductive.

And so how does the store scenario end? You say “No thank you,” and walk out feeling like everyone who overheard you is shaking their heads at your overt callousness.  You hope they didn't notice that you were wearing a cross or scapular as you withheld your donation to alleviate the suffering of cancer patients worldwide.  I concede that, from the outside, it may look like we don't care about sick people. But, in fact, the opposite is true.  We’re actually the ones being consistently compassionate in that instance, because, as charity-touting Christians, we are concerned for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, including those in danger of being exploited.

I don’t know about you, but, upon entering adulthood, not being able to unflinchingly support medical research has actually brought me great sadness.  Sometimes the injustice of it all really hits me.  I remember a time, pre embryonic stem cell research, when we kids enthusiastically handed over our allowance money to the cashier and took delight in writing our names on the paper shamrocks that became plastered, along with hundreds of others, at the front of the store. 

Make no mistake, though, now that I know which organizations perpetrate harm on people for the sake of people, thanks again to the wonderful internet, I would not risk donating to any such organization.  And I do realize that there is no way to completely isolate oneself from stopping all of one’s money being used for evil;  these days, it seems like every restaurant or business trendily gives to one questionable cause or another. You can’t even buy a box of cereal or a coffee mug without being informed that part of your purchase goes to an association which is investing in ‘cure research.’ I try to avoid these items, again, not because I hate people and want them to suffer, but, as Christians, we are called to observe and practice the cardinal virtue of justice, and minimizing our participation in evil is a part of becoming fully just.

Of course, you will meet some Catholics that openly support many of the organizations in conflict with Church teaching.  These Catholics do more harm than good when they don’t want to hear about all the “dreary stuff” and my suspicion is that their desire to “do good” in the world enables a convenient denial that “good,” indeed, has become evil (such as when you don’t support a popular organization) and “evil” has become good (as when the potential to save life requires the condoned destruction of life.)

This all sounds very negative, I know, but it’s true and nothing is more compassionate than telling someone the truth and living it consistently yourself.

In truth, we Christians also have hope.  Real hope, not the kind that sounds nice on the news only the have the rotten bottom fall out from under it a generation later.   There have been several advancements and ‘miracles’ using the completely ethical and effective method of adult stem cells.  There have been recent breakthroughs using reverted skin stem cells (iPs) which are cheap to manufacture and produce incredible results.  The day I am asked to support those companies championing such effective and fruitful research or the day that all companies observe ethical stem cell research is the day I will be able to give again!  And it appears to be in sight.

Even my state, California, which took three billion dollars of taxpayer money (you heard me) and sank it into embryonic stem cells (while they hiked up state university tuition by almost 30% in the meantime) has almost silently shifted funding to adult stem cells instead.  So much for ‘progressive’ thinking.  It turns out the only ‘morality’ liberal minded stem cell companies observe is: money.  If they can make a cheap stem cell and a profit more quickly than an expensive, unyielding embryo, then they’ll readjust their moral compass accordingly.  Trust me, for a Californian, somehow the words, “I told you so – and thanks for making us bankrupt as you made your buddies rich,” just don’t even come close to expressing all we could about this subject.

I realize that well-meaning people support organizations believing them to be admirable.  However, although an end that someone seeks may be 'good' (like a cure for a disease, for example) for something to be fully moral, its ends and the means to achieve it as well as its circumstances must also be licit.  That’s ‘straight Aquinas,’ in case you wondering.

But from the outside, I’m sure it totally looks like we’re a bunch of inconsistent do-gooders who don’t believe in helping our sick neighbors.  In truth, we are concerned for the good of everybody involved including those who are sick, those who treat them, those who work in pharmaceuticals and those at the embryonic stage of life who are the most vulnerable.

As someone once said, “As a former embryo myself, I like to think I had a dignity even at that point that no one should be allowed to violate.”

See?  Holding a value for every human life is not a negative perspective at all.  Nor is it overly positive.  It acknowledges reality.  A cure for people must be found but not at the expense of the life of another.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chalk Markings (Sidewalk Snapshots Vol 1)

Standing on the sidewalk, in the midst of busy northern San Jose, with the whirr of traffic all around us, my daughter asks me, “Mommy, can you pwease make a hopscotch?”  I have to smile at her request.  Her playful entreaty for me to draw "squawes" stands in such high contrast to the very serious reason we are out on there.   It is not the first time she has made this request.  In fact, as is often the case, our colorful chalk markings from the previous week are still lightly visible on the pavement.

It doesn’t take long to find the pale remnants of last week’s hopscotch. I set my beat up “40 Days for Life” sign down, and grab her nubby chalk. Still clutching my rosary in one hand and reciting fragments of the Hail Mary in between square-art, I realize just how lucky, yes, how blessed I am to be there.

Not too long ago, I was just another heart that hurt every time I drove past the corner lot in the streaming traffic.  Then, I would simply make the sign of the cross as I passed the clinic.  But deep down, I felt a tug in my heart to do more.  Call it a personal invitation from the Holy Spirit, but the feeling stayed and one day, I finally went out and prayed by one of the nation’s many death camps for the unborn.

That tug or “call,” to my own surprise, has only intensified.  And so I consider praying on the sidewalk a blessing, for, because of it, I've grown in compassion for the mothers, fathers, workers and escorts who enter the clinic.  And I'm more courageous, or at least, not as fearful about going out there.  I used to be afraid of giving a visible pro-life witness to the world, but now I am not afraid.  I pray to feel love in my heart for everyone who goes into the clinic, for love conquers fear, and the people who enter the clinic are very, very afraid.  They tell me as much themselves. 

So now I pray year-round at the same site, but having the kids with me has changed things, as evidenced by our chalk markings.

There is also a sad side to all of our chalk play.  You see, the colors on the pavement all end at the cement line demarcating the clinic's line.  One you cross that threshold there are no more rainbows, no more lady bugs, no more flowers, scribbles, shapes or hopscotches.   There is only a dark tarmac driveway, a stranger to lead you to the door, and a world of pain, devoid of all color.

I'm convinced that God uses simple things such as chalk markings to further instruct us on the great disparity between the culture of life and culture of death.  By the same token, the sight of children on the sidewalk, is the most tangible lesson on this.

Which is why I bring them, though we must be an oddity to behold.  Imagine, if you will, a mom, kneeling on the ground, her baby boy staring out from his stroller, and her toddler girl watching every movement of the chalk in her mama's hand.  I draw the first hopscotch square.
            “See sweetie, it’s a square.  Hail Mary, full of grace...”
            “Squawe,” the little girl repeats back to me.
            “…the Lord is with thee.  Yes, four sides, a square.  Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.  Look, now we put a “1” in that square.”
            “Numba 1, mama?” her eyes widen in recognition of the number.
            “ Yes.  Now another two squares and a “2” and “3.” Holy Mary mother of God, pray for us sinners,” I draw a few more squares and number them, “now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”  The hopscotch is completed.  The girl is gleeful.
            I look up at the car windows of the traffic and see a few sets of eyes looking in our direction.  I also see one of the abortion escorts circling again in our direction.  I wish I knew what people think when they see us: a mom, her two small kids, an abortion clinic, a rosary, a stroller, chalk, life and death all at once.
            Some of them let us know what they think especially when it’s not very nice.
            But, armed with our arsenal of snacks, chalk, pamphlets and pro-life paraphernalia, we are undeterred.

            And this is just one snapshot of praying “on the sidewalk” told through the lens of a “sidewalk” mom who is just one of thousands of such mommies and daddies and grandparents out there on the gray concrete, weather beaten trenches of the nation’s grassroots prolife movement.  But there are countless other snapshots that need to be told and shared.  Some contain real tragedy, others real misunderstanding, others: the innocence of a child such as one little girl drawing on the ground in front of The Tower of Mordor known as Planned Parenthood.

How about you?  Do you have any “snapshots” or sights you encounter when you hold vigil at the sidewalk?  Care to share?