Another Kind of Christmas Shoe

Another Kind of Christmas Shoe:

A reflection on the greatest gift that you and I have to offer

Written by Joanna Krawczynski, Western Campus Coordinator

 

A close friend of All photos courtesty of pixabay.commine does not like Christmas. For her, the sentimental songs and glittering gifts only offer promises that are never fulfilled. The radio sings about cozy companionship, twinkling storefronts proclaim dreams coming true… then we go straight from Winter Wonderland into the frenzy of Boxing Day, only to wind back up in our office chairs on Monday.

I’m also not a huge fan of dizzying store line-ups. I also get annoyed when Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree comes on the radio three times a day. As a Christian, Christmas carries a special significance for me that, in spite of my best intentions, sometimes slips into the shadow of preparations and celebrations.

Christmas is often conflated with gift-giving. And rightly so, except when giving is misunderstood to be about shiny ribbon and bloated stockings. When it comes to Christmas, we have a special opportunity to recognize the immeasurable value of another person by offering them the greatest gift we can give: the gift of self. In doing so, we are mirroring that first Christmas! Imagine: God loved us so much that He came to a tiny town and was born in a dirty stable to a teenage mom, to live a lPhoto courtesty of pixabay.comife totally dedicated to pouring Himself out for others.

Love is a gift that can never be wrapped – in anything besides swaddling clothes, that is. As Mother Teresa wrote, “Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.”

This reminds me of a Christmas tradition we recently adopted at home. One year, we decided to flip a small wooden folding table upside down and turn it into a hay-filled “manger” alongside our family Christmas tree. Gift-giving then took on a new twist: gifts for my family went under the tree, gifts for the Christ Child went under the manger.

The first year we did this, I put my dance shoes under the manger… after much hesitation. Finding gifts for Jesus was much harder than I thought it would be! To make matters more complicated, I decided to combine this with another tradition of ours: every year, we set an extra place at our table in case an unexpected stranger knocks at our door. That year, I thought it would be fun to also turn those gifts laid at the manger into a collection for the stranger, should he ever make an appearance.

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For some reason, giving things away made me realize how much I treasured them. I never imagined that my dance shoes (nothing fancy, just my worn sneakers!) would be something that I would have a hard time giving away. But there I was, shoes in hand, standing humbly before the manger, unable to bend down to give them away.

To me, those shoes represented my dream of one day having a dance team of my own. For me, to lay down my shoes was like laying down my dream and saying, “God – may this gift you’ve given me be used to bless someone else, even if that means I have to part with it.”

In the end, my shoes lay under the manger, undisturbed, as my family and I gathered around the table to feast, then jammed at the piano and danced together. As for me and my bare feet – I didn’t regret a moment of it.

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas, as you celebrate with friends, family, and maybe even strangers, may God’s amazing love for you be a reminder of the precious gift that your own life is. May your joy overflow and never run Photo courtesty of pixabay.comempty as you give of yourself in generous love for others.

This may cost you more than your shoes, but it is only in completely giving of ourselves that we can truly love others and be filled with the love we so deeply desire – a desire that neither dizzying line-ups nor jingling bells could ever hope to satisfy.

Merry Christmas and a blessed 2016, from all of us at NCLN!

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Overcoming Excuses


We hope you’ll continue running on your Symposium high (and for those who weren’t there you can read this recap!) But we know that reality hits once you get back to school and other commitments. Read this to get some practical pointers and motivation on how you can overcome excuses!

Written by Rebecca Richmond

Excuses, excuses…we hear them, we accept them, we’re irritated by them, we’re even guilty of making excuses ourselves. When it comes to the excuses to avoid pro-life involvement and campus outreach, we’ve heard them all.

In fact, this post was written in response to a suggestion from a student leader to address the topic of excuses in a blog post!

And whether you’ve heard these from yourselves or your friends or club members, the good news is that they’re normal AND they can be overcome. Here are our answers to the top excuses we’ve heard (or made…):

I need to put the priority on school. I just don’t have enough time.

Yes, yes do. We want you to pass your courses with flying colours and go into the world armed with your brains, your degree, and the heart of a nation-changer.

But even if that is your top priority, hopefully you have other priorities in your life still: your health, family, friends, etc. Students across Canada are also putting a priority on the lives of pre-born children and you can too – without flunking out.

There are sacrifices, to be sure, and the sacrifice of time is a steep one. But often, at least in our experience, the issue is not so much the time, but our time-management.

If we start to evaluate our schedules and consider where we put time and into what, we will likely find that, at least on occasion, what we’re spending time on doesn’t match our convictions. The reality is that we always have time for the things we make time for. If our hours with Netflix outweigh our hours of community service, then maybe we need to consider if our priorities match our convictions.

But you don’t have to manage this all alone. NCLN’s staff want to make your work on campus easier. Our resources, training, and mentoring are designed to do just that. Busy students work with our staff each semester in order to impact their campus – without dropping their GPA. (And we have helpful hints for time management too!)

There aren’t enough club members and I can’t do it all alone, so I just can’t do it this year.

Fact #1: There will probably never be enough club members to do all that needs to be done.

Fact #2: The little you do with a few people accomplishes much more than doing nothing would accomplish.

Fact #3: You’ll never attract members unless you actually do something in the first place.

The general principle is: start where you are with what you have.

And there’s so much that can be accomplished when you do! Contact your NCLN Campus Coordinator to help you find little things that you can do that can still have a big impact. There are projects that require practically no prep or cost, no booking, and as many or as few club members as you have – and yet still has an impact AND can help you recruit new members. We’d love to help you get started on them!

I support the cause but I’m focused on sharing the gospel on campus.

There are many good and important groups and causes that people should give time to. But involvement in one doesn’t mean you can’t support another (most if not all students we work with are in that situation!).

If our opposition to abortion – an act that is daily claiming the lives of Canadian children and is funded by our own tax dollars – does not manifest itself in anything except for an ‘I-support-pro-life-but’ statement, then how much does our conviction mean? This is not a charity, this is an emergency.

Maybe you can’t take on a leadership position within the pro-life club, and maybe the club’s weekly meeting is in conflict with another commitment you already made, but there’s other ways you can be an enormous support to the cause on campus:

-Volunteer at a weekly Outreach Table;
-Participate in clipboarding a couple times a month;
-Use your networks to bring friends out to club events.

Just a few hours here and there can be incredibly helpful to the club leadership and to your campus!

I’ll support the cause after graduation.

Unfortunately, abortions are still happening now and therefore our action is needed on our campuses now. Campuses contain the demographic most vulnerable to abortion as well as Canada’s future leaders. We need to be active on campus now in order to make sure these future leaders are well educated, that their hearts and minds are changed so that they can build a brighter future for Canada now and after graduation. We need to be active on campus now in order to reach out to those who may be faced with an untimely pregnancy, for their own sake and the sake of their pre-born children.

The problem with ‘tomorrow logic’ is that tomorrow ‘is always a day away’. If you train yourself now to put off urgent causes until tomorrow, then how will you have the character later to act and speak up?

Our character, our virtue, is formed by our habitual actions, the choices that we make. Our time at university is an ideal time to become pro-life leaders. Now, and not after graduation, is the time to learn the time management skills we need to complete our studies and give time to other priorities in our lives. Now, and not after graduation, is the time to choose to make small sacrifices, to practice courage within a controversial issue, to seek justice and mercy in our nation.

(After graduation is a great time to start supporting the work of NCLN as a monthly donor! Just thought we’d point that out. 😉 )

To reiterate the main points here, this cause is not a charity, it’s an emergency, and we need to match our convictions with action. But you’re not alone in trying to address this emergency: NCLN exists specifically to support you, to help you overcome the excuses you might hear from others (or occasionally feel tempted to make), and to make sure that you can be successful in your club and your classroom.

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Recap: 2015 NCLN Symposium: Without Exception

Written by Anastasia Pearse, Executive Director

Words cannot express how grateful we are to all the students who joined us over the weekend for our Annual Symposium! We are so incredibly impressed with your energy, enthusiasm, conviction, and commitment to speaking up about this injustice in our country, without exception. Wear your t-shirts with pride and keep the momentum up from the weekend! Know that your passion is contagious, and necessary in order to sustain the Pro-Life Student Movement on our campuses!

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For those who could not attend the symposium, below are some highlights from our speakers!

 

Without Exception: Anastasia Pearse
  • As pro-lifers we know that there are no exceptions when it comes to saving innocent human beings.
  • There are no exceptions when it comes to showing love to all human beings.
  • We must be willing to live a pro-life lifestyle, without exception.
  • As pro-life students on your campus you are: present, you are peers, and therefore you are powerful.
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Talking to the Victims of the Sexual Revolution: Jonathon VanMaren
  • We need to understand the culture around us to most effectively reach them with the pro-life message
  • We are talking to a culture of that sees human beings as a commodity.
  • What does pornography have to do with abortion? It perpetuates the idea that humans can be used.  Objectification of humans leads to dehumanization, which leads to victimization. We have a society whose acts have lead to commodification of the human body.
Talking to Those Who are Ignorant: Josh Canning
  • Three keys to speaking to the ignorant:
    1. Show compassion for their concerns about abortion. Usually a person’s good intentions are involved.
    2. Tell stories. It allows you to empathize together about the persons involved in the story.
    3. Ask questions – get to know their opinion and what they do know.
  • We must develop a heart that is as big as that of those we talk to, but then bigger.
Talking to Those Who are Complacent and Apathetic: Daniel Gilman
  • If we’re complacent we’re empowering a system that slaughters babies.
  • Being pro-life is not a charitable cause. It is an emergency.
  • We need to show the complacent the hope found in action.
  • Give them immediate opportunities to take action!
  • The only reason we’ve had horrific genocides is because good people are doing nothing to stop it.
Effective Conversations: How to Win Hearts and Rescue Children from Abortion: Devorah Gilman, CCBR
  • 3 Goals in pro-life conversations: understand, love & inspire.
  • We live in a society where parents are legally responsible for the ordinary care of their children. What about the preborn?
  • Truth without love is ineffective. And love without truth is a lie.
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  • Ask 4 questions to show that abortion is a human rights violation in any conversation:
    1. Do you believe in human rights? Who gets human rights?
    2. If two human beings reproduce, what will their offspring be?
    3. If something is growing, isn’t it alive?
    4. Doesn’t it logically follow that abortion is a human rights violation because it kills an innocent human?
  • In any difficult circumstance thought to justify abortion, the person you’re speaking to needs to know you care.
  • Steps to effective conversations:
    1. Find common ground.
    2. Use analogies
    3. Ask questions.
  • We must learn to show the truth rather than tell. Show, don’t tell.
Recruiting Your Team: Anastasia Pearse, NCLN
  • Successful recruitment is the result of effective outreach and sustained relationships.
  • Who are two people you can think of right now that you can make a prolife impact on?
  • Too often we focus on impacting “society”, rather than those around us. One person at a time, we can change the world.
  • Avoid the exhausting event syndrome and keep it simple! REV up your campus with Regular, Engaging and Visible activism!
Leading Yourself: Rebecca Richmond, NCLN
  • The only cure for a selfish culture is a culture of selfless individuals.
  • Is what is holding us back from doing activism more important than the message we are trying to share?
  • Your club is more than weekly meetings and activities. Your club is a movement.
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Euthanasia: The Key Issues and Argument: Fr. Kevin Belgrave, St. Augustine’s Seminary
  • The ultimate solution to euthanasia is a renewal of relationship between us and those who are suffering.
  • Euthanasia isn’t about killing pain, – doctors already do that – it’s about killing patients.
  • Euthanasia creates a “duty to die” – people feel coerced to choose to die to let their family carry on.
  • When suffering people want to die because they feel they are a burden, that is a sign that we are not doing enough to support them.
Top 10 Ways to Sustain  Yourself and  Your Team: Clay Imoo, Archdiocese of Vancouver
  • Sustaining yourself and your team is vital for long-term success, avoiding burnout, and growth
  • Give your team members some TLC: Training, Leadership, and Care.
  • Who we are communicates far more eloquently than what we say or do.
  • Ways to keep your team members: build relationships, meet regularly, know what motivates them! Let them know they are making a difference
  • Ways to keep your team members: affirm them, give them a variety of responsibilities, encourage risks, encourage them to grow.
  • Relationships are vital to your ministry. Make them a priority!
  • Clarify expectations: what do you expect from your team? What do they expect from you?
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To see more photos from the Symposium, visit our National Campus Life Network facebook page!
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Welcome Joanna Krawczynski to the NCLN Staff Team!

Joanna Krawczynski

National Campus Life Network is pleased to announce the hiring of Joanna Krawczynski as the new Western Campus Coordinator, working out of NCLN’s B.C. office. Joanna will be replacing Anastasia Pearse, who is moving into the Executive Director position as of August 1st. As the Western Campus Coordinator, Joanna will serve pro-life students from Manitoba to British Columbia.

Joanna graduated this spring from Trinity Western University with a Bachelors of Arts, majoring in International Studies. She also completed her Certificate in Leadership and Applied Public Affairs from Trinity Western.

As the former president of Trinity Western’s pro-life club, Joanna has extensive experience in campus pro-life activism and received training, guidance and assistance from NCLN’s staff throughout that time.

“Joanna will be a great compliment to our NCLN team,” states Anastasia Pearse. “Not only has she been creative and effective in her pro-life outreach, but she regularly goes out of her way to support her club members and other students in B.C., impacting them with her compassion, empathy, and dedication. I’m excited to have her on staff! She has a lot to give and our students out west are blessed to have her supporting them!”

Joanna will take on the position on July 17th.

We encourage you to join us in welcoming her! She can be reached at joanna@ncln.ca

Welcome to the Team, Joanna!

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Stop the Madness!

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Written by Ashley Bulthuis (Summer Intern 2015)

I recently heard Dr. Will Johnston’s speak at the March for Life in Victoria. His speech was profound. It was foreboding. It was a foretelling of what will come if the federal government rushes into enacting a law on assisted suicide that does not ensure the lives of all Canadians are valued and protected.

Dr. Will Johnston is the chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of British Columbia. During the rally he highlighted the need to place our focus on life-saving health care, stating “supplying real healthcare means supplying therapy. Therapy improves function, therapy does not intentionally create a corpse.” Our future doctors are at risk of playing the double role of health care provider and grim reaper if laws are not made to protect Canadians from physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. What a chilling prospect Canadians may face! As a millennial, I cannot help but wonder what this means for my generation.

The outcome of this decision impacts more than just our grandparents’ generation. Each of us will have to face the reality of death at some point, whether it be for a close family member, friend, or ourselves. If assisted suicide becomes permissible in Canada, it will open access to legalized killing in our country, providing a lethal alternative to the rightful dignity of a natural death. By legalizing this we fail to realize that our generation is sealing the lid to our own tomb.

Is this honestly what we want to aspire to?

To put the frenzied state of our current situation in perspective, consider the following insight from Dr. Johnston: “Parliament is warned to make the law stringent and rigorous, supposedly excluding some people from a new right for which their own subjective preferences are the only qualification. If you were a guest at this Mad Hatter’s Tea Party your best question would be who could you say ‘no’ to?” Having stringent regulations ultimately will not prevent innocent lives from being taken in the end, as there will be continued pressure to widen the regulations to include more people.

But we can do our part to prevent this madness from continuing. I encourage you to take part in Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s Give Us Time campaign, which has sent out 80, 000 postcards asking politicians to hold a Royal Commission on assisted suicide, and invoke the Notwithstanding Clause so Parliament can draft effective assisted suicide legislation. Parliament currently has less than one year to draft legislation, but more than a year is needed to make such a massive decision. This is especially important in light of the upcoming federal election this fall, which will draw attention away from the Assisted Suicide debate. You can visit the campaign site to download the postcard, and encourage others to do the same!

Life is precious, let’s join together to protect it!

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Without Exception

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Written by: Anastasia Pearse

Hopefully most of us haven’t had an occasion where we’ve needed a lifeguard to save the day – that is, to save our lives. But even without such personal experience, we know one thing to be true about lifeguards: if someone calls out in need of help, the lifeguard won’t call back to confirm his or her identity; a lifeguard won’t be checking IDs or going through a list of questions before mounting a rescue to decide if the person’s life is worth saving. Lifeguards are there to save our lives – without exception.  

We also demonstrate the urgency and importance of saving lives when we clear the road for an  ambulance; we know that there are lives at stake, so we indirectly assist those who are directly assisting the vulnerable – without exception. So many of our societal norms and laws are geared towards protecting the lives of the vulnerable. But unfortunately those of us in the pro-life movement know that there is a gaping exception: how society treats pre-born children.

We’ve seen the inconsistencies in the way people act when it comes to the abortion issue, and we’ve heard the many exceptions that are raised. We’ve been confronted with students who are animal rights activists, students who are involved in the blood donor club, medical students, students who volunteer at the local food bank; students who are dedicating their time to saving the lives of others but who speak out against saving those who are most vulnerable in our society – the pre-born. We’ve heard people state they are pro-life, except for the case of rape. Or if the child will have a disability. Or if they will be born into poverty. So many people pride themselves on their dedication to saving the lives of others. But they have exceptions.

As pro-lifers, we see that there are no exceptions when it comes to saving the lives of innocent human beings. We see the dignity of every human being, and so work to uphold and protect them – without exception. This does not end with the pre-born, but also extends to the lives of all who are vulnerable in our society, and to each and every person we speak to on a daily basis. By our words and actions, we need to affirm their value and worth – without exception.

But sometimes exceptions creep in when it comes to our own pro-life activism. How many times have we put conditions on when or where or how we participate in pro-life activities? We will help at the pro-life Outreach Table, except if it’s in a public space where our classmates  may see us. We will attend a pro-life lecture, except if there’s a paper to complete that we’ve been procrastinating on. We will go to a club meeting, except if our friends are having a movie night that we’d prefer to go to. We act as pro-lifers, except when it does not fit into our schedules or comfort zone.

We want you to be pro-life – without exception. To help you be exceptional pro-lifer student leaders who can overcome these exceptions, we are excited to announce our 2015 NCLN Symposium: Without Exception. The Symposium will equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to defend the lives of pre-born children, in spite of the exceptions people may pose to you. It will prepare you to have productive conversations that affirm the dignity of those we speak to – even when we disagree with them. It will give you the strategies, leadership skills, and motivation you need to overcome those exceptions we place on our own pro-life outreach. So join us for an amazing, life-changing weekend! Applications open June 22nd!

As the summer moves forward, consider how you can make a commitment to being an exceptional pro-lifer. Continue to educate yourself on the pro-life position so you can show how each and every human life deserves the right to life. Challenge yourself to fully engage and give yourself to those difficult conversations so you can show those you speak with that their life has value and dignity.  Make a commitment to participate fully in the activities of your pro-life club so you can work alongside your team to share the message on your campus.

We challenge you to be pro-life. Without exception.

For more information about the 2015 Symposium, click here.

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The Pro-Life Leaders’ Book List – Part 1

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When I joined NCLN’s staff team in 2010, a few pro-life leaders gave me a list of book recommendations, books that became allies as I learned more about the issues, social movement strategies, leadership and how-to-run a national not-for-profit. Many more books found their way to my office bookshelf in the years since. And so, during this transition, I began to note the various books that staff would find helpful – and maybe book that students would find helpful too. That led to a thought, “I wonder what other Canadian pro-life leaders’ top book recommendations would be?” And so I asked. The result is a series of posts on their top book recommendations (because otherwise this would be a really long post!.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be posting their top recommendations on the must-read books for budding pro-life leaders. We hope you enjoy!

-Rebecca Richmond

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marketing of evilJonathon Van Maren
Communications Director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform

The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian
“This book lays out in detail how our culture got to where it is with abortion, hook-up culture, pornography, and so much more. Many people often ask, “How did things get this bad?” David Kupelian answers that question decisively and brilliantly.”

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Anastasia Pearse
unaborted socratesWestern Campus Coordinator of National Campus Life Network and soon-to-be Executive Director

The Unaborted Socrates by Peter Kreeft
“This apologetics book is written as a dialogue; its unique way of explaining the pro-life position provides a practical perspective on how we can share the truth of our position in our discussions with others.”

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Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

alexExposing Vulnerable People to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide by Alex Schadenberg
“This book is based on the data from recent studies from jurisdictions where it has become legal.”

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hand of godAndrea Mrozek
Executive Director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

The Hand of God by Dr. Bernard Nathanson
“I remember being really affected by Bernard Nathanson’s The Hand of God.” N.B. Bernard Nathanson was a former abortionist and co-founder of NARAL in the U.S. After an ultrasound-guided abortion, he became pro-life.

 

 

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the islandAndré Schutten
General Legal Counsel & Ontario Director of the Association for Reformed Political Action

The Island (film, 2005)
“This movie, quite possibly unintentionally, is one of the best arguments against embryonic stem cell research. *Spoiler alert!* The movie powerfully depicts the moral wrong in creating human life for the express purpose of medical experimentation or as a mere means to enhancing the life of other humans. The principles at play in the movie, as they apply to clones, apply equally and exactly to human embryos.”

 

 

 

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Photo by Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon, CC 2.0

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The Nitty Gritty Not-So-Glorious Pro-Life Life

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Written by Rebecca Richmond, Executive Director

There’s a part of me that wants to do great things.

Big things. Awesome things. Culture-changing life-saving awesome-awesome things. The kind of things that make it into the movies that stir our hearts. Whether it’s the film Amazing Grace, about the abolition of the slave trade, or even the heroic quest of Lord of the Rings, something in us is captivated by adventure, heroism, and saving the day.

Then there’s the part of me that looks at the great things, blanches, and says, “Nope. No Way. Not me.”

I suspect most of us can relate to both of these and are well-acquainted with the tension that exists between them.

I know some that don’t let the ‘no way’ part get in the way of their drive for greatness. But ‘no way’ tends to be more in control of my life, at least in terms of how I feel about my ability to do great things.

In many if not most moments, I can push away that sky-high hope for greatness and think, “I don’t want to do big things. I don’t want people to make movies about my life because I don’t want to have to do anything big enough to warrant having a movie made about my life! I don’t feel capable of big things.”

It’s a paralyzing place to be.

The good news, though, if you suffer from the same fears as I do, is that the little things are the important things. They are the critical, foundational, essential, necessary things. And they are doable – even for shrinking violets like yours truly.

Am I saying not to aim for great things? No, absolutely not. But if you want to achieve those big things, you’ll still have to start with small things.

They are the little choices we are faced with everyday: the opportunities we have to speak up to defend life, the tasks we decide to accomplish to work towards that club event or that project, the emails we write to follow-up with that student we spoke to at our clubs table, the activities we decide to attend.

Consider the movies I mentioned earlier, or really any movie where people right injustice, where they overcome the odds. There’s a moment at the end of Amazing Grace where my heart nearly bursts as we watch the members of Britain’s parliament vote to abolish the slave trade. That’s what we want. We want to watch our parliament vote to protect preborn children and their moms from abortion. We want our culture to have shifted to the point that this vote is what all Canadians want.

But the thing is, Amazing Grace depicts a 18 year struggle in…2 hours. A lot of life is simply not captured. In fact, in so many movies, you’ll often see a sort of music video in the middle. That montage of people doing all of those little, hard, boring tasks that are necessary but…not very exciting for the audience. Hence the music video format. Whether it’s about abolition or whether it’s Frodo and Sam plodding along to Mordor, it’s all the work that goes into a victory.

It’s easier to be a part of the big, rousing events, like marching in the March for Life, in a sea of people who all believe what you believe. It’s harder to make those choices for life in our everyday lives: that conversation, that project, that monthly donation, that weekly club commitment. It’s harder to put ourselves out there when we’re not part of a sea of people but when we’re among our own communities, our own families, our own friends – the places where our reputations are on the line, the places where being pro-life might cost us something.

And yet, that’s where we have the most influence.

We often get discouraged because we don’t understand how we can affect society – it seems so big, so distant, so immoveable. But when we start in our existing relationships, within our communities, amongst the people we have access to and influence with, the people who know us, the people we are in contact with, that’s when societal change starts to follow.

It’s not easy; I won’t pretend it is. But that’s what social transformation needs. That’s what leads to victory.

And that’s our challenge: to be faithful to the cause in those small sacrifices, those not-so-momentous moments, the things that might never make it into the movies of our lives. And regardless of whether we want the big things or we’re afraid of them (or somehow both!), the good news is that we all can do the little things and all of the little things make all the difference in the world.

 

 

 

Photo by Sebastien Wiertz, CC 2.0

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