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Simple Gestures: Part One

We are so often waiting for the grand gesture, and the energy to support it, but reality is, our lives make a difference. Reality is, each choice affects another day, another situation, another outcome.

When someone told me about 40 Days for Life, which has been organizing to set up prayer protests at Planned Parenthood offices around the US, I wanted to do something to support the work of Planned Parenthood itself, which has been providing health care services for birth control to low income people for close to 100 years.

Here’s a slice of history:

Planned Parenthood dates its beginnings to 1916 when (Margaret) Sanger, her sister, and a friend open America’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. In Sanger’s America, women cannot vote, sign contracts, have bank accounts, or divorce abusive husbands. They cannot control the number of children they have or obtain information about birth control, because in the 1870s a series of draconian measures, called the Comstock laws, made contraception illegal and declared information about family planning and contraception “obscene.”

Sanger knows the tragic toll of such ignorance. Her mother had 18 pregnancies, bore 11 children, and died in 1899 at the age of 40. Working as a nurse with immigrant families on New York’s Lower East Side, Sanger witnesses the sickness, misery, and death that result from unwanted pregnancy and illegal abortion. The clinic she opens provides contraceptive advice to poor, immigrant women, some of whom line up hours before the doors open. Police raid the clinic and all three women are convicted of disseminating birth control information.

But Sanger and her allies persevered, through actions that now seem grand.

To honor this impulse was simple: I told some people I would be sitting in silent meditation outside my local Planned Parenthood yesterday. I called the offices to let them know we would be there. Ten of us showed up, some for the whole time, some for a portion of it. We held signs that read, “We Support Planned Parenthood” and “Women’s Lives are Sacred” in clear contrast to the signs across the street from the clinic. Energetically and physically, we were on the side of the clinic, breathing in the cold air for one hour.

Several people thanked us for being there, one man said he was ‘incredibly grateful to see us’. A bus driver honked his horn. We just sat in silence. Apparently a Planned Parenthood worker came out, and gave us a thumbs up. We made a difference in a few lives, including our own. We liked it so much, we’re doing it again next week.

One action – a friend sending me notice about the clinic protests – moved toward my action, which moved toward ten people supporting a local clinic. This may still not sound grand, but every action affects every other action.

To quote the old Miners Union song: “Drops of water turn the mill, singly, none.”


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