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It’s good to have you here

| Thursday, March 20, 2014

About 11 years ago, give or take a few months, I can remember exactly where I was.  I stood in my kitchen, telling my Dad that I would not be going to baseball practice. I was ready to quit my junior high baseball team.
I dreaded every single practice and game.  Although I could run quickly, it was rare for me to get a hit. To top it all off, I was really shy, and I didn’t really talk to the other guys.  All in all, I never felt like I contributed that much.
But my Dad, to his credit, would have none of it.  Before I knew it, we were off in the car making the short drive to the practice field by my house.  But I protested every minute of the journey, and, as we pulled up, I refused to get out of the car.
Through arguing, I thought I might be able to stall until practice was over.  All of a sudden, I watched in a state of horror as my Dad stopped our conversation and calmly got out of the car.  He made the short walk to where the coach was standing and began to converse with him.
After what seemed like an eternity, coach looked at the car and then looked at the team.  He halted practice and called the team into a huddle.  As the team resumed practice, I watched as my Dad returned with the coach.
Coach motioned for me to roll down the window.  “Scott, how about you get out of the car? We need you,” he said.  Although I was shocked and a little embarrassed, I sheepishly got out of the car.  As I trotted through the field and into the outfield, each one of the guys turned and acknowledged me.  “It’s good to have you here,” they said.  “We missed ya.”
I thought of this story in January as I boarded the bus to go on pilgrimage to the 2014 March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Our group travelled together on the long bus ride to Washington.  We visited monuments and museums, toured the National Cathedral and visited a Franciscan Monastery.  Although we did a lot, our many hours together brought out something that was, in my eyes, much more important than any tourist attraction: our personal stories.  After that many hours together, we couldn’t help it.
But as we marched in below-freezing temperatures from the Washington Monument to the Supreme Court on the day of the March, I couldn’t help but wonder about the stories of the other people who had joined us to commemorate the anniversary of the legalization of abortion.
All around us, beneath the layers of t-shirts, jackets, scarves and gloves were hundreds of thousands more stories.  We saw people from all walks of life: young and old, clergy and laity, single and married, rich and poor, not to mention the gamut of cultures and nationalities.
In some sense, though, each one of us had different reasons for being there that day.  I marched for all those people who have told a struggling kid or a student that he or she matters.  I marched for all those who had wanted to quit at some point in their life but didn’t.  Ultimately, I marched for my coach, my Dad and my junior high baseball team, the ones who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
But on that day, it quickly became clear that our group’s individual stories were becoming part of something much bigger.
We began to realize that our presence in Washington was more not only a protest, but also a celebration of stories.  On that day, we marched not only in memory of the millions of unborn, but in memory of all those men and women who have been given the gift of life, especially all those who might have encouraged and reminded someone just how good it is to be here.
While not all of us may know the deep struggle and heartache that accompanies abortion, chances are we know what it feels like to want to quit and give up.
And it’s in those moments where I must remember what my team said to me, what we celebrated at the March and what I think God continually tries to say to us, too: “It’s good to have you here.”
While we bring unique gifts and talents to this journey of life, we all have the same fundamental dignity: We are reflections of God’s light and love. We are called to help others be those reflections, even when they think they can’t. This, to me, is the ultimate celebration of life. Let us take the time to remember those people and those experiences that have helped us understand this fundamental truth.

Scott Boyle is a graduate of Notre Dame and a student in the Echo Faith Formation Leadership Program in the Notre Dame Institute for Church Life.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


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