The Gift of Presence


It was a sunny spring morning when Maria climbed into her cousin’s truck and headed for the abortion clinic. She hardly noticed the sunshine because her head was spinning as she pleaded with God to give her a sign to stop her from going to the clinic. “This wasn’t supposed to happen,” she repeated to herself, as if the thought could somehow erase her pregnancy.

As they approached the abortion clinic, Maria and her cousin noticed a quiet group across the street praying the rosary. At the same time, a gentleman approached them speaking words of hope. He showed them a video on his cell phone of a sonogram of a 12-week-old fetus. “This is what the child inside of me looks like?” Maria asked in disbelief. She knew this was her sign. Indeed, God was sending someone who could help her. He said, not only was he here for her, but “all of those people across the street… they are here to help you too.” Maria broke down in tears and thanked God for saving her from making what she already knew would be the worst mistake of her life.

A couple of weeks later, we introduced Maria to one of our co-workers, Angie, “just another woman to talk to when you need a friend,” we told her. Maria and Angie met up at a local park and went for a walk together. They were instant friends. For the next six months Maria and Angie talked on the phone almost daily. Angie, an experienced mother, calmed Maria’s fears about being a first time mom, assuring her she would figure things out quickly and that Angie would be there for her as long as she wanted. When it came time to deliver the baby, Maria asked Angie to be the one to cut the umbilical cord.

As I rejoiced with Maria at the birth of her beautiful baby boy, I couldn’t help but marvel at how one person can mean so much to another. The gentleman simply gave of his time and stood outside of the abortion clinic on a Saturday morning offering a word of hope to women passing by him. In him, Maria caught her first glimmer of hope that, perhaps, abortion was not the only option. All the people praying the rosary across the street, who also gave an hour of their time to stand in solidarity with the unborn, offered a prayerful witness of hope to onlookers. These two alone were enough to stop Maria from entering the clinic. Since that day, Maria has spoken countless times of her gratitude for never entering the clinic.

The support of our Co-Workers of Life has also been life changing for Maria. In the last few months Co-Workers surrounded her with the gift of unconditional love, a quality of love that she has not known before. This is the love every human heart longs to experience. This love has the power to reveal to a woman her beauty and goodness that she herself might not perceive.

Shortly before the delivery of Maria’s son, she said, “Sister, thank you so much for being there for me. Thank you for all you have done and most of all for introducing me to Angie! I don’t know what I would have done without her.” It was evident, Angie’s love changed Maria’s life. If you ask Angie what she’s done, she’d say, “I haven’t done anything! I talk to her on the phone, text her, take her to run errands with me. She’s become my friend.” It is the gift of Angie’s loving presence that changed Maria’s life – nothing complicated, nothing big, just simple day to day friendship and love.

In St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he writes, “With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us” (1 Thess 2:8). This is one of the most effective ways to build the culture of life – simply to be open to friendship with another, loving them and sharing a part of one’s life. In this, they experience acceptance and love and come to know themselves to be good and lovable.

During this Thanksgiving season, as we gather with family and friends, let us give the gift of our presence, our friendship and of our very selves to all those we encounter. In this may we give the gift of an encounter with God’s love.