Turning Busy Into Beautiful: Practical Steps to Take as Students and Pro-Lifers

By Rebecca Richmond, Executive Director

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I noticed a disturbing trend in my language this fall. A four-letter word was figuring prominently in my vocabulary: busy.

Busy, busy, busy. My answer to questions about how I was doing, my running monologue in my head: busy, busy, busy. 

The more I heard myself use it, the more I realized that I was using it as a crutch in so many ways.  The more I heard others use it, the more I realized it was an exhausting to listen to and not terribly attractive to witness. And I don’t know about you but, no matter what my schedule or responsibilities consist of, I want to lead a beautiful life, and not a ‘busy’ one.

And so I welcomed the insights within a blog article entitled “Busy Isn’t Respectable Anymore”  that circulated on social networks recently. In it, Tyler Ward outlines how ‘busyness’ is no longer respectable but actually can indicate, among other things, that we’re not managing our time well, that we lack self-confidence, and it can even negatively impact our work as well as our lives. He goes onto describe an experiment a friend undertook in which he eliminated the word ‘busy’ from his vocabularly for an entire year.  If you haven’t yet read the article (too busy? hmm?) then do so now.

 Done reading? Welcome back.

What does this mean for us as students, as pro-life student leaders and activists? How can we turn ‘busy’ into beautiful?

I suspect I’ll be figuring out the answer to that question for the rest of my life but in the meantime, I’d like to propose two ways we can turn busy into beautiful – and improve our effectiveness as pro-life campus leaders in the process.

1) Adjust our attitudes.

Attitude is contagious. How we decide to approach our to-do list, our balancing of school, courses, athletics, AND pro-life activism will rub off on others. Do we talk about it as a complaint, a burdensome thing that is sucking the very life out of us? Well, good luck recruiting new members if that’s the sales pitch! Is it a privilege, a sacrifice worth making, an amazing group of people to collaborate with? Now that is the kind of group I would want to join.

A positive attitude, even amongst a very full schedule, actually goes a long way to contribute to your wellbeing. And a busy attitude? Well, as Ward’s article states,

“Busy, it would seem, is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The more we said it – the more we felt it.  The more we felt – the more we acted like it.  The more we acted like it – (well, you know the rest).  Guess what?  When we quit saying it, we reversed SOME (not all) of the craziness.” 

It’s not that you ignore the fact that there’s a lot going on; you simply don’t allow it to make you miserable and frantic. And believe me, operating at a frantic pace really just manages to exhaust you and everyone else.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off, occupied and ‘busy’. What matters is, ultimately, what I did and if what I did really mattered. Did I take care of what really mattered so that the staff and students’ needs are being served? Was my team served or did they suffer because of my leadership?  

It’s a work in progress, but trust me, even a bit of progress can go a long way to help you and those around you – including your club.

2) Focus on the beautiful, not the busy.

In attempting to remove ‘busy’ from my vocabulary, I struggled to figure out what to say instead. I decided to try to share a bit of beauty instead of just the busy. It helped me adjust my attitude, as I discussed above, because I began noticing how much beauty is in my life. 

I also began to realize I was missing out on a lot. It’s much easier to answer ‘How are you?’ with ‘busy’ and leave it at that. It’s easier to talk about the to-do list circulating in my brain instead of the amazing things I get to be a part of. 

So instead of pulling out a laundry list to impress people with how little you sleep and how much you work, speak instead of something that has blessed you or interested you. Even simple questions like “How are you?”, “How was work?”, “How was school?”, “How is the pro-life club?” are opportunities to value those we come into contact with, to truly engage with them in a conversation, and to invest in the relationships.

Take it a step farther: use these as opportunities to share the amazing things you are doing on campus. If you have an event coming up, share your excitement about it. Now you have the opening to invite your friend to be a part of it, either by helping with the organizing or even just attending. Imagine the impact this could have on the membership of your club is even a few members of your leadership team started doing this!

 Easier said than done? Absolutely. But make a start:

  • Try eliminating ‘busy’ from your vocabulary – even just for a month;
  • Share the beautiful instead of the busy when people ask you how you are or how school/work/pro-life activism is going;
  • Use opportunities of sharing the beautiful to invite people to be a part of it by joining the club and coming out to the events. 

We, as pro-life students, are the voices of life on our campuses. In most cases, we are the only opportunity that our peers will have to hear the pro-life message on campus. We owe it to our peers and, most importantly, to all those babies whose lives are on the line to speak up and stand up. There are many things we will need to be in order to serve the cause and merely ‘busy’ is not one of them. Let us, instead, be beautiful, bold, courageous, and attentive to what matters and the opportunities that surround us. Let us, together, make 2014 a year of beauty.

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Diving into the Year

Rebecca Richmond

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Here we are, somehow, in September.  

This time of the year is full of memories for many of us: memories of back-to-school shopping, serious contemplation over our first day of school outfits, sharpening pencils and packing our bulging backpacks.  I recall always being so careful to go to bed at an early hour, and often being unable to fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning because I was so wired.  Despite little sleep, I would jolt out of bed as soon as my alarm went off.

That was not the case this morning.  I am not in school but my entire job is oriented to supporting students, so when you start school, our busy summer shifts into hyper drive for the fall.  But this morning I did not want to be conscious, not because I was tired, but because I did not want to face the challenges of the day.  No, to be entirely accurate, I didn’t want to face the challenges of the day, the week, the semester, the year…you get the picture.    

It’s not that I mind hard work.  I happily give up evenings and weekends, like every other pro-life activist in the country, to do what needs to get done.  No, my problem isn’t the work.  It’s the fear that I won’t be capable of the work.  It’s the fear of failure: of letting people down, of not being able to do it all, of not being able to do it all perfectly.  My perfectionist tendencies needle me and procrastination is an almost irresistible temptation.  And yes, I succumbed briefly to the temptation of the ‘snooze’ button this morning.

It is easy to disguise these fears with the easily accepted explanation of being “too busy”.  The reality is, no matter how ‘busy’ we are with school and work, we do have time.  We make time everyday for things that aren’t really priorities – or shouldn’t be anyway – in our lives.  We make time for Facebook, we make time for Youtube videos,  for watching TV, for random Google searches we can’t even recall the original purpose for.  We make time for people, socializing, going out.  And we do make time for pro-life activism, but we all struggle to keep up.  Those emails that must get written, the meetings we promised to attend, the tasks we promised to take on are all important aspects of that activism.  They are the little choices that build a foundation for having an impact on campus.

Time is part of the issue, but what is the deeper root of our problem?  What are we afraid of?

Are we afraid of what other people will think? Maybe we’d rather keep our activism on the down low; we’re still doing pro-life things…as long as no one we know notices.  

Are we afraid that we won’t be able to fulfill our responsibilities properly, so we procrastinate until we have to bow out with an excuse?

Are we afraid that we’ll let our fellow club members down?  Afraid that we’ll let the cause down?

These are all real fears that can paralyze us, if we let them.  So as we go back-to-school and prepare ourselves for the year, let’s give ourselves a good dose of perspective.  I dare you to ask yourself a dangerous question, a question that radically changed my time at university and continues to get me out of bed even on daunting mornings: is the fear that is holding me back more important than the message I have to share?  Or, will the reality of 300 innocent lives lost every day to abortion in Canada propel me to overcome my fears and insecurities?

I know that standing here, on the brink of a new semester, can be daunting.  All of us would prefer to merely dip our toes or wade in the waters of the cause.  But injustices are never righted by people taking an occasional lukewarm interest.   Conviction must lead to commitment if we are to succeed in ending abortion.  It requires us to be brave and bold enough to stop hugging the shoreline and dive past our fears into the deep uncertain waters of a life lived for others.

So sign up for an executive position with your club, organize that first club meeting, plan those events, book those club tables, remind those friends about getting involved, and live as if somebody else’s life depends on it – because it does.


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The Resolve We Need for Our Resolutions

By Rebecca Richmond, NCLN Executive Director

I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions. This year I didn’t even bother thinking about them but in the end, the newness of the year and the semester got to me. After spending the break at home with my family, I returned to Toronto and thoroughly reorganized my room, cleaned my pantry, and planned out a few meals and lunches to start the year off right. It’s almost on the subconscious level that the New Year brings the conviction that I need to read more (the classics), sleep more (but not sleep in), eat better (and regularly. i.e. breakfast and lunch), get more work done (i.e. magically create more hours in the day), and the list goes on.

As much as there is comfort in the familiar, our society seems drawn towards fresh starts and using them to commit to doing something good or giving up something bad. The problem we run into is the follow through.

I recently heard a speaker address this in a talk on New Year’s resolutions: many people make good and important decisions but lack the energy to follow through. This resonated with me as a problem that we, as pro-lifers, can encounter. We make a good and important decision – to work to end abortion – and we set short-term goals such as starting a club, hosting events, and having an impact on our campus, but we struggle to accomplish these. Falling short can then demoralize us, depress us, overwhelm us and ultimately impede us from accomplishing anything at all.

We need to have resources to motivate us and to track our progress so that when we are faced with distractions, we can get back on track.

Memories are one such resource. In moments when giving up seems all too attractive, memories can remind me of why I do what I do and why I must continue. Memories of conversations that led to changes of heart and events that impacted our campus can stoke the embers of my heart and reignite the fire. Do you have memories of how passionate you felt after a presentation, conversation, or event? Take a moment to think back to that time.

Imagination and vision can similarly re-energize us. When the present seems unbearable we can escape, for a moment, to the future. What is it that we are working towards anyway? Do you have a picture of that future in your mind? Childish as it sounds, I sometimes imagine my future self talking to colleagues from NCLN in a time when all of these frustrations are blurred by the haze of years gone by.

Future Rebecca: Remember when student unions used to discriminate against pro-life students? It’s hard to believe freedom of expression was not respected on our campuses!
Future Anastasia: You’re telling me! My pro-life club had to sue our student society in order to be treated fairly!

Your fellow club members are another resource. Spend time with them, not just to work on your plans and projects, but also to connect personally. (But this doesn’t take the place of those regular executive meetings!) If you are struggling in certain areas or have an exciting or motivating story or idea, share it with your club members. You are not merely students working on a class project together; you are colleagues fighting for a cause. Emotional support and friendship support your work. I experienced the importance of this as a student leader and continue to on staff with NCLN. Taking a bit of time to come together and discuss how we ourselves are doing – and not just how our work is – has been a powerful motivator for all of us on staff.

On that note, the NCLN staff are also available as a resource. Our organization was established for students by students. While president of uOttawa Students for Life, I benefited from weekly phone calls with Theresa Gilbert, then NCLN’s Executive Director and now president of our board. Our Campus Coordinators are more than happy (delighted, in fact) to chat regularly with you to help you out.

And although being accountable to other people is important (and another reason why weekly exec meetings are so important!), personal accountability is also essential. Take time each night to go over your day. How did you do? In light of how you did, what have you learned and what will you do tomorrow?

We’ve spoken to a couple students who have expressed regret over not accomplishing as much last semester as they had hoped. Learn from this, but remember that last semester was last semester. It’s over. Don’t let this regret paralyze you this semester. A new year is here and presents us with new opportunities. With resolve and good resources, our resolutions can lead us to transform our universities with the pro-life message.

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PRESS RELEASE: New Network for High School Pro-Lifers Launched

Toronto, March 30th, 2011 – On Thursday March 24th, the Toronto Right to Life Association (TRL) and National Campus Life Network (NCLN) unveiled a new resource for high school pro-lifers in Canada.  This project, Student Life Link, is a network and resource for high school students to encourage the formation and development of pro-life high school clubs.

Student Life Link features a website containing resources, contacts, speaker suggestions and motivation for students and teachers to start pro-life clubs at their schools.  A Facebook page and group will enable students to share ideas, news, and connect with one another.

Lia Mills, who has garnered attention for her Youtube videos and powerful speaking ability, introduces the project on the new website and invites her peers to join in.  “Together we begin today to shape tomorrow, to build a pro-life Canada,” she says.  “It begins here and it begins now, with you, with me, and with our generation.”

“Young people need more than just the truth about abortion,” adds Rebecca Richmond, Executive Director of NCLN.  “We also need strategies and opportunities to get that message out to our peers and our society.  Getting involved is what builds us into pro-life leaders for not only the future of our country, but also the present.”

This project was inspired by an earlier collaboration between TRL and NCLN on a Student Club Manual for high school students.  Like the manual, modelled on NCLN’s university manual, Student Life Link also draws on NCLN’s expertise and resources from years of working with pro-life university groups and adapts them for the high school environment, an area of focus for TRL.

“Student Life Link will complement the current work and accomplishment of teachers, students, school boards, and local Right to Life organizations.” says Rebecca Richmond.  “Clubs need that local help and support.  What we’re trying to do is add a layer of support that is accessible to students through online media and which encourages collaboration and idea sharing among groups.”

“The tagline and motto of the project is A Pro-Life Canada Starts Here,” explains Paul Klotz, Executive Director of TRL.  “It sums up the growing optimism and confidence of our pro-life youth and we hope it will inspire these young men and women, through their involvement with a high school pro-life club, to choose, support and fight for fight in high school, in university and beyond.”

The project was launched on Thursday March 24th at the 2nd Annual Student Leadership Conference, co-sponsored by TRL, the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s Respect for Life Committee, and the University of Toronto Students for Life.

For more information, visit the website at www.studentlifelink.ca or contact Paul Klotz at 416 483 7869 or Rebecca Richmond at 416 483 7869 (office), 416 388 0461 (cell).

photo:  Lia Mills, with Rebecca Richmond, Director of NCLN, and Larissa Zantua, TRL staff member, cuts green ribbon inaugurating Student Life Link

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