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"Do you have kids?" my co-worker asked as he looked at an old family photo of me surrounded by nieces and nephews. He was helping me move into a new office, and my mind was focused on the many other duties that were piling up. He went on to mention that he and his wife had adopted twin sons from Guatemala. However, I was distracted and simply said, "that's great" before moving the conversation along.
As I turned my mind towards promoting the theme of this year's Respect Life Program, "Open your hearts to life!" I realized what I had done. The phrase, borrowed from Pope Francis, reminds us that the culture of death begins with a culture of rejection. In seemingly trivial ways, we often place our desires over the needs of others. I had placed my to-do list ahead of my co-worker's desire to share the details of his children's adoption. As Pope Francis said recently, "We must all care for life, cherish life, with tenderness, warmth... to give life is to open our hearts, and to care for life is to give oneself in tenderness and warmth for others, to have concern in our hearts for others." Christ calls us to open our hearts, sacrifice our own wants, and love others with generosity and mercy.
After realizing my hurried response did not reflect that call, I went back to my colleague and asked him to tell me his family's story. I listened as he described the pain of his wife's ectopic pregnancy and how they chose adoption over the unacceptable choice of IVF that was presented by their physician. The couple tackled mounds of paperwork and received visits from fire marshals and social workers. Even after they were approved for adoption, there was still a great deal of uncertainty. They accepted the risks associated with not knowing the history of their children's biological parents and the challenge of accepting that an adoption could be mere months or several years away.
The couple checked "yes" to accepting more than one child, including the possibility of siblings. The adoption agency told them they had never had twins from Guatemala because they usually don't survive, so they were surprised a few months later when they received the call that they had been chosen to adopt twin sons. In February of the following year, they traveled to Guatemala to meet their sons and bring them home. "It was amazing. We were a family," said my co-worker. "The adoption experience was a challenge, but it was worth it," he went on to explain.
Opening our hearts to life means loving those whom God puts in our paths, even when it seems inconvenient or time-consuming. Listening to my co-worker's story not only enabled him to feel supported and affirmed, but I also gained a great deal from the experience. I learned more about adoption and grew in my desire to advocate for adoption to others. And by loving the person in front of me at that moment, my heart was opened more fully to God's plan for life.
Every day brings many chances to reflect Christ's love for others. As we celebrate Respect Life Month this October, may each of us remember to keep our hearts open to each and every person whom God puts in our path, loving and praying for them all with an open heart.
Learn more about joining in the celebration of Respect Life Month by contacting your local diocesan pro-life office or visiting www.usccb.org/respectlife.
Mary McClusky is Assistant Director for Education & Outreach at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn more about the bishops' pro-life activities, go to www.usccb.org/prolife.
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