Resolve to Reach Out

On butterflies, duffel bags, and the end of info tables

Written by Joanna Krawczynski

 

Okay, I’ll admit it: the idea of campus outreach, like clipboarding and tabling, does get my heart beating a faster out of excitement for these opportunities to reach my peers with the message of life.

Actually doing campus outreach… to be honest, that can get my heart beating for a different reason, racing with the cold determination of nervousness that makes me feel faint. Or nauseous. Or a combination of the two. Either way, I know I’m not the only one (feel free to sing along). However, I also know that if I do not give myself a swift kick in the pants and stop dwelling on worst-case scenarios, I will spend the rest of the afternoon hiding behind my info table or clipboard. And my campus will be poorer because of it.

Rewind a couple months.

It was my first time clipboarding – and we were downtown Vancouver. I was being ignored, misunderstood, turned away, and the courage I thought I had was steadily dwindling. Almost by accident, I walked into the conversation of two tradesmen from Quebec.Your shadows talk while you listenBoth carried grungy-looking duffel bags and wore wrinkled clothes as well as unshaven, though genuine, smiles. The eyes of the younger fellow lit up more often than his cigarette as he talked. The other fellow seemed old enough to be the father of the younger man. The older man’s deep, browned wrinkles told a part of his story that he did not seem ready to share then. His was a fatherly tone, though he was adamant that a woman should be able to abort her child if she will be unable to care for the child after birth. After about a half hour of conversation, I had to run to catch up with my clipboarding crew. But before I left the conversation, the younger fellow stopped me.

“Can I show you something?” he asked. “I want to show you a photo of my son.”

The man’s pride for this little one was unmistakable as he pulled out a school photo of his smiling seven year old, looking smart and bright-eyed. My heart just about melted. The young man shared that he was here on the other side of the country for this little guy, catching jobs to make their ends meet. I went home feeling helpless, torn between feelings of joy for the younger man’s determination to support his son, and sadness for the stubborn resolution of the older man, whose comments conveyed the perspective that children without caring parents are better off eliminated. To follow this logic is to say that it is a greater tragedy to be unwanted and alive, than to be unwanted – and killed. Fast forward about a month and a half. I’m just getting the hang of Vancouver’s transportation system, catching the skytrain home after a day of campus activism. My head is buzzing, trying to debrief the day’s conversations as well as make sure that I get on the right train. As I slide onto the train and carve out a place to stand, the smell of cigarettes makes me catch my breath. There is a pile of beaten-up bags at the feet of a fellow passenger. I lift my eyes, piecing together the baggy pants, layers of clothing, and a salt-and-pepper scruff crowning the unshaven face of a man with deep, browned wrinkles. “Bonjour, Monsieur…!” I greet the familiar face with astonishment.

His eyes wrinkle around the edges as he smiles back, “I did not think that you would recognize me.”

Of course I recognized him, though I was definitely not expecting to see this man, the older tradesman from that afternoon of clipboarding, ever again. The man shared how he was heading back to Montreal after traveling all across Canada for work. The man then paused, motioning to his bags,

“You know, I’ve been here in Vancouver, on the streets. No home or apartment. My sleeping bag is in there.”

SW 3rd Avenue
The duffel bag lay sprawled at his feet. The man glanced back at me and continued, “You know, my kids, I’ve got five of them. My kids, they are all grown up and established. I gave them all I could. Now it is time for me to live my life.”

Hold on. Where are his children now, and why don’t they seem to care that their father is living on the streets? My heart ached as this man shared the story his wrinkles betray.

How did I not see this earlier? His earlier assertion that an unwanted life is better off destroyed came from a deeply personal place, a place beaten up and worn like the baggage at his feet.

I wanted to do something to help this man, to show him his worth, but the best I could do was to learn his name, shake his hand, and wish him well, as we both had another train to catch.

Reflecting on this, I realize that we have an incredible opportunity as pro-life leaders. We have peers who also carry around with them that heavy feeling of being unwanted. Like the student who was abandoned by his father when his mother decided to give him life. Or the girl whose parents remind her daily that she is not the boy they wanted.

But how can we help our peers to see the value of their lives, if we let the butterflies in our stomachs keep us from reaching out to initiate a conversation?

Okay, granted – maybe they don’t have time for a conversation. Are we doing any harm by wishing them a good day?

Brochures and pamphlets are helpful resources to have on hand, and an info table can be an effective background tool,

but there is a reason why we work with student leaders, not printing machines.

In our activism, let us resolve to reach out and, in doing so, touch the heart of another. We have the opportunity – indeed, the responsibility – to encourage our peers to recognize the value of their own lives, to be voices declaring the profound truth that every life is wanted.

Without exception.
Share Button

5 Steps to Making the Most of Your Tabling Event!

By Clarissa Luluquisin, Central Campus Coordinator

 As NCLN’s Central Campus Coordinator, my job involves getting my boots on the ground (specifically winter ones in this weather).  I trek to campuses across the province to train and assist pro-life students in their outreach, and my favourite project to help with is the club information table.  

What can be better than engaging with a person one-on-one, hearing their thoughts on abortion and responding to their concerns, and thanking them for taking a moment to speak to you?

Can you tell that I’m an extrovert?

Although events like debates and movie screenings can be very impactful, the information table marks the start of many personal relationships of the pro-life club’s members with soon-to be club members, as well as engaging with students who are not informed about abortion.  It is pro-life activism and recruitment – all packaged into one easy event! 

How you begin these relationships matter, and in maintaining these relationships, your club has a greater opportunity to grow.  And the more it grows, the more people there will be working alongside you to spread the pro-life message.  This engagement is all the more important with lives on the line.  

Check out our information guide on tabling here, and also find my 5 suggestions:

1010079_700887006610071_1821013680_n
TWU Tabling Event

1. Create an eye-catching display board with a variety of resources on the table.

Make an event out of it with your Exec too – no need to do this all on your own.  And if you’re short on resources, contact your local campus coordinator and you’ll be sent a bunch for free. Don’t forget to print out a sign-up sheet too!

2. Start all conversations with a kind smile.

People want to talk to people who are friendly and approachable, and this is harder to do on some days, with all that you have on your plate.
Think of laughing babies and joyful mothers if you need some motivation! 🙂

3. Speak with compassion and conviction.

Asking someone how they feel about abortion can bring up a lot of different emotions in a person.  Whether it be anger, sadness, or indifference, listen attentively, tell stories, and ask good questions.  Agree with them where you can, and explain with clarity where you cannot.  Illustrate your points well and schedule an apologetics trainings for your club members every once in a while to refresh yourself.  

 4. Follow up personally with the people who have signed up for your email list and invite them to the next meeting or club event.

This cannot be emphasized enough.  A day or two after your table, send a personal email to the student you spoke with, thank them for taking the time to chat with you, and invite them to your next meeting.  If you got along really well, why not suggest meeting up for coffee to tackle a bit further that interesting point they brought up?

5. Debrief with your club members.

Whether in between conversations, or soon after a day of tabling is done, debriefing about your conversations is so essential.  How else are you ever going to get better and spread the message as effectively as possible?  If you didn’t like how you said something, think about it some more, and come up with ways with your fellow club members you would have liked to say it instead.  

Ready? Set? GROW!

Have any stories about tabling on your campus?  Send us an email

Share Button