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Clinton Days

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June 2019

June. School’s out. Time to set in motion all those plans made during the cold winter or rainy spring. Plans like camping in a gorgeous national park, or basking in the sun along the seashore, or climbing mountains, or lounging at a luxury resort.

Growing up, for our family it was going to an old town along the banks of the Wabash River in Indiana’s coal country. Clinton had known far better days. It was—and still is—a city standing on shaky legs. Founded in the early 19th century, Clinton attracted immigrants willing to work the mines. When the 1930s Great Depression hit, many left in search of jobs. They included my mom, still a teenager. But my grandparents and aunt and uncle stayed. So shaky or not, Clinton was our summer destination. We couldn’t wait to go.

Clinton was where life’s stories were formed and memories were made. It had an absolutely huge pool where we spent lots of time—and got a lot of sunburn. We’d go to an occasional drive-in movie. But with virtually no other attractions, our cousins and us made our own fun, and lived our own adventures. We built a raft we floated in a nearby pond, read Archie comic books, went shooting in the woods, and even experimented—unsuccessfully—making homemade firecrackers. We did lots of fun stuff. Hungry? We’d head out for my aunt and uncle’s garden and grab a tomato. Come Sunday, we’d feast on pan-fried snapping turtle and my grandma’s apple strudel. Kings don’t eat as well.

Of all those memories, perhaps the most important one came years later when my wife and I would bring our own family to Clinton. It was of my widowed aunt. She lived off a miner’s pension and the little she made doing piecework in a clothing factory. But whenever it came time for us to head home, she’d give each child a dollar. We’d object, but she insisted. Giving was that important to her. It was like St. John XXIII said, “Whoever has a heart full of love always has something to give.” She had it; she gave it.

Recently, a beautiful story reminded me of it all. Baby Gisele was born 11 weeks premature after exposure to narcotics in her mother’s womb. She weighed less than two pounds at birth. She suffered for neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition caused by withdrawing from the effects of drugs in her system. During Gizele’s three-month stay in intensive care, nurse Liz Smith was the only person who visited her. She visited every day. Liz, too, was struggling. She was physically unable to conceive the children she so desperately wanted. Just at the right time, Gizele’s blue eyes hit Liz right in the heart. She fostered and eventually adopted Gizele. “I felt I needed to love this child and keep her safe.” Today Gizele is thriving, and Liz is beaming. Another heart, filled with love, showing what love can do.

Our most basic human instinct is to survive. But our deepest human calling is to love. When we answer that call, beautiful things happen. Strangers no longer remain strangers. Wounded people begin to heal. Loneliness and emptiness evaporate. Bridges form, not just between two people, but among multitudes of people. Love can turn a hellhole into a flower garden. For when we love, we expand our world far beyond the limits of ourselves. We live for the other.

Perhaps the greatest beauty of love is that it is there in our hearts from the beginning, just waiting to blossom. Watch a three-year old at play, squeezing a stuff animal or holding a baby doll. It comes so naturally. It extends so easily. But as we grow, so does our sense of self. What should come easily becomes more difficult. We rationalize away the call to love.

We are called to love all people, including the unborn. Yet we fail to appreciate how much love they need. We close our eyes and shut our ears to them. We even learn to hate the unborn and those who try to help them. Recently, a video captured students walking through a display of pro-life crosses in Texas, like they were stomping on the graves of the dead. In Pennsylvania, state legislator, Brian Sims bullied teens and elderly woman peacefully praying outside an abortion mill. He offered $100 to anyone willing to identify the teens on the internet. Elsewhere, a woman shouted at pro-lifers:  “F*** you! F*** you! F*** you! F*** you! F*** you and the rest of you f***ing ignorant b****es!”

Hatred like that doesn’t come naturally. It’s a learned behavior, traceable to several sources. The first is the culture. Every day, in virtually every way, our culture teaches that self-gratification is our most important value. In our culture, it’s all about the “me” in each of us. Sacrifice is good only so long as someone else is sacrificing. The message is relentless and overwhelming. There is little room for the other, and no room for the unborn.

That hatred is fueled by the big-abortion machine: politicians and Planned Parenthood. How? Follow the money. Politicians need campaign contributions to stay in power. Planned Parenthood needs politicians to protect its billion-dollar pocketbook. It’s a marriage made in hell. The politicians spout nonsense about the so-called “fundamental right” to kill defenseless unborn babies. PP reaps in the money for killing them. Colorado’s Democratic secretary of state had Planned Parenthood help script her response to the Alabama pro-life law. She is not alone.

None of it survives without the deadly silence of which we are all complicit. We have refused to speak out in our churches and refused to educate our children, figuring that others might get angry with us for teaching the truth. We’ve surrendered a fighting spirit for warm and fuzzy feelings. We’ve become content to let the culture teach. And it does. We need to realize: things won’t improve until our country hears our voices. Every day. In every way.

For in building a culture of life, school’s never out.

 

Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2019. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/ and on Facebook.

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