The XX Factor

What’s Life For?

Sunday night was when I first found out abortionist Dr. George Tiller had been murdered. But unlike Elizabeth Weil , I knew exactly who he was. I grew up in a conservative Christian family: loving my dad’s lapel pin of tiny baby feet, dropping change in baby bottles to raise money for crisis pregnancy centers, and keeping up with relevant legislation. My family and I are probably a pretty good representation of 99 percent of the pro-life movement-people who wouldn’t sabotage a clinic or use violence to stop abortion, but do our best with community involvement, prayer, and our votes. So I knew who Tiller was. I’ve prayed for him before.

I was following the lead-up to his trial for 19 misdemeanor counts all through March. Updates hit my inbox in a bizarre parallel track to another set of breathless updates from friends. Their baby daughter was born by emergency cesarean-section three entire months early and whose survival was an open question. Everyone was pulling for her to make it-doctors, nurses, friends, relatives, co-workers. It’s a strange world we live in, to get those updates and then to read about tiny babies just about the same age that hadn’t had that kind of cheerleading, who had first been held in Dr. Tiller’s arms instead of their parents’.

To me, all the stories of Dr. Tiller’s work raise one big question, “What’s life for?” Is it just to be happy and have a good quality of life? And if it is, then who gets to set that bar for us-our parents, our laws, or our faith?

I came across one answer this week from my friend Erin, just back on Monday from a trip to Uganda. You can read the whole story here , but Erin writes,

I have to tell you about a brother and sister named Kevin and Catherine. He is 24. She is 21. Their parents died and left them as orphans. Kevin received a full scholarship to attend Liberty University in Virginia and has just graduated and is coming back to Uganda on Monday. Three years ago, Kevin looked around and realized that there were other orphans that needed care, so he and his sister began to take them in. At age 18, Catherine had become a mother to these children and their head caretaker, as Kevin returned to Liberty to study. Over the past three years, the number of orphans has reached a total of 68. The ages range from 3 months up to the lower teens. Catherine, a child herself, is now mother to 68! The only income they receive is from the part-time job that Kevin has at school, which he balances with being a full-time student. This brother and sister decided together that they would give their lives to these 68 children until they are grown and can provide for themselves. Their courage is a great challenge to me.

The children only get to eat once a day, around 3 or 4 p.m. Catherine serves them tea in the morning to hold them over until then, and then lets them play in the afternoon until bed, in hopes that they will fall asleep before they realize their hunger pains and ask her for more.

For $100 we were able to buy a wide variety of food for all of the children and give them a meal that would nourish their little bodies. Catherine, knowing each child intimately, cried throughout the meal because she couldn’t remember the last time she saw them enjoy eating so much.”

So I don’t know what defines happiness for you, or for a baby with serious medical problems, or for the parents of those kids. But for me, I know that whatever my definition of happiness is now, I hope it can grow someday to be as life-changing and life-giving as Kevin and Catherine’s.