The Compelling Power of a Personal Story

Recently on the First Things blog, Betsy Childs had a beautiful post titled “Davion Only and the Power of Specific Need.”

A month ago, no one had ever heard of Davion: a 15-year old boy, an orphan, who was born in prison, raised in foster care, and lived in a group home.

But after finding out his birth mother had recently died, he did something incredibly courageous: he stood in front of the congregation at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, and asked for a family to adopt him.

Now it seems, everyone has heard about Davion. And over 10,000 families want to adopt him.  Childs considers why his story resonated with so many people:

The Tampa Bay Times could have run an article highlighting the fact that there are 14,000 children in foster care in the state of Florida. While true, this fact would not have had the effect that the picture of Davion had. Some would credit the remarkable response to the “power of story,” and they might be right. But the story of Davion Only also highlights the remarkable response of human beings to specific, meetable needs.

Large numbers inevitably become abstractions. What is the difference between 2 billion and 3 billion? Although we may cognitively know the answer is 1 billion, when it comes to the ability of our minds to conceive it, there is practically no difference. I may shake my head at the statistic that 24,000 infants die in our country in a given year, but finding the grave of just one of those infants in a cemetery can make me cry.

The needs of our world are great. When I am confronted with those needs in all of their statistical enormity, I feel like going back to bed. I know that I will never make a dent in those statistics.

Take the Abstract and Make It Personal

This last paragraph brought to my mind the scene of the Agony in the Garden as depicted in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, in which the devil tells Jesus, “No one man can carry this burden… It is far too heavy. Saving their souls is too costly.”

Working in the pro-life movement, we constantly hear a similar message from our enemies: You don’t really think you can end abortion, do you?  Why do you even bother trying? You’re just wasting your time!

Indeed, in the face of statistics that tell us 1.2 million babies are killed by abortion every year—in the U.S. alone—it can seem like we’re wasting our time. But we need a different perspective.

We as individuals might not be able to end abortion outright, but we still can—and should—try to save every baby we possibly can.  One of the most crucial ways we do that is by going out to our local abortion clinic to sidewalk counsel or pray.

When we go out to a clinic, abortion ceases to be an abstract issue to be debated.  At the abortion clinic, we encounter mothers who are scared, desperate, and hurting, and who feel like abortion is, ironically, their only “choice.” We may not be able to save all babies from abortion, but we can try to save their babies.

Of course, we never save as many babies as we would like.  But we also must be mindful that every time we go out to an abortion clinic—even if no babies’ lives are saved—our very presence stands as a testament to their humanity.  We go there, in mourning, because we love these children who are put to death in our midst, and we do not want them to die alone.

Returning to Betsy Childs’ article, note, once again, this sentence:

I may shake my head at the statistic that 24,000 infants die in our country in a given year, but finding the grave of just one of those infants in a cemetery can make me cry.

When I read this, I immediately thought about my own experience at the memorial service the Pro-Life Action League hosted September 14 at the gravesite of over 2,000 aborted babies at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois as part of the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children: I was moved to tears, which, for me, doesn’t happen very often.

I’ve worked in the pro-life movement full-time for over nine years, but something about the experience of being there, physically, at the burial site of so many aborted babies who had been recovered from a loading dock of a pathology lab in 1988 hit home to me in an extremely powerful way.

There are 42 gravesites of aborted babies nationwide, and we as pro-lifers should visit these gravesites on a regular basis.  During this month of November, with its traditional focus on praying for the souls of our departed loved ones, this is an especially fitting time to do so.

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