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

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?

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