Wednesday, October 6, 2010

40 Days, and living pro-life

I visited the blog of a regular commenter, The Cottage Child, earlier this afternoon, and read this blog post in which she linked to a post written by another woman, one whose blog I'd never seen.

This post, by the blogger at Abigail's Alcove, really made me sad. For instance:
My husband, Jon, calls having a kid in the NICU as "the gold standard of parental need." For one of the first times in my life, I truly needed help. I had four kids under the age of 8. I had a husband who couldn't get more time off his work. I'm a transplant to this city- I have no long-time friends or family nearby.

I asked for help.

And I got turned down. I got turned down by neighbors. I got turned down by family members. I got turned down by Catholics--Daily Mass going Catholics, Bible-School Teaching Catholics and fellow Carmelites.

When I say turned down, I mean turned down flat. Not "this is a bad time, can I do something for you tomorrow." But "No, I can't!" and the empty ringing of a dial tone.

And that hurt, so much, so much.

I spent so much time crying on the way home from the NICU for this reason. My pleas for help got bumped for book club meetings, soccer practice, family get-togethers, home-school lessons, etc.
Read the whole thing here.

Like I said above, this made me sad. And angry. And guilty, too, all at once. Because like a lot of people, I've been on both sides of this situation--but I'm still all too likely to make an insincere gesture of support while hoping fervently my help isn't really needed.

Now, I know that one objection might be that we all have our duties, and that we can't possibly respond to every plea for assistance that comes our way. Sure. Fair enough. But in this woman's situation, her newborn was critically ill in the NICU, and she needed real, immediate assistance so she could be with her baby as much as possible--and people hung up on her phone calls.

How is that pro-life? If we're going to pride ourselves on opposing abortion and standing for all human life, then we'd better be willing to get our posterior regions in gear if a fellow parishioner has a desperately sick baby in the hospital, and we are not actually impeded by, say, being physically paralyzed or something, from helping. To do anything less is to be a hypocrite.

Luckily for me, I have two terrific models of how Christians should respond to these situations.

The first is my parish. For all our faults--and we have them--the parish I belong to is an amazing group of people who know how to pitch in and help when people are in need. I don't want to give away any private information, but when a local family had a tragic hospitalization of one member who, sadly, died, the parish men's and women's groups had a calendar put together immediately with people scheduled to buy groceries, baby-sit, and do a million other things to help this family. I tried to sign up--but the whole calendar was filled, every day, every task, for nearly two months before I ever saw it. The people running things actually had to tell some of us, "No, there's nothing more needed right now, but we'll call you if something opens up." And we are a tiny mission parish--how much more could some of the bigger Catholic parishes do, if they could simply find a way to organize things efficiently?

The second is my sister-in-law, Charlotte. Those of you who are blessed enough to know her in person will know what sort of thing I'm talking about; those of you who don't--well, I don't want to embarrass her too much, but Charlotte has been known to drop everything to pitch in to help family, friends, and even Internet acquaintances whom she's never met. She has driven out-of-state to help a family through a difficult loss; she has sent party craft supplies to stressed and frazzled moms; she has provided countless meals to new moms, to grieving families, and to a certain redhead with a lingering flu who really appreciated the crock-pot full of soup which magically appeared one winter afternoon. She and my brother unhesitatingly took care of our girls when this happened, even getting them to Mass--and Charlotte didn't just get them to Mass; she took the time to find dressy clothes in her own and her girls' closets for them to wear so they wouldn't have to go to church in the clothes they'd been wearing the day before.

And she does these things without any thought at all for reciprocation; she does them because it's how she puts her Catholic faith into action, how she lives what being pro-life really means, how she puts the Golden Rule at the head of her way of life.

With these kinds of examples from family and friends, I really have no excuse to give the weak-smiling "Tell me if you need anything!" cop-out to someone in a crisis. And reading the post from the Abigail's Alcove blog, I realize that while it might be perfectly acceptable and human to say, "I can't do X today, but I'd be glad to do Y tomorrow, and maybe our family could come by and take care of Z for you this weekend!" it's not acceptable, nor even remotely pro-life, to meet a cry for help with an unequivocal "Non serviam."


KC said...

That was a very sad blog post.

And, you are blessed to have Charlotte in your life. I have witnessed her love for all and it's amazing.

priest's wife said...

This can be very true. When I was in labor with my second daughter our BISHOP babysat my one-year old for a few hours. My husband's family was in Europe- my family across the country- no one in the parish to help. Things have improved- but imagine trying to rush through labor because your babysitter is a confirmed bachelor!

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...

Thanks, Sis, for all your sweet words!
I am sure that I fail more times than I succeed but as Mother Teresa said, "God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try."