Walking Across America…For Life!

Back in May, I further blogged about my experiences at this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C. I basically said how I inhale at being pro-life because I’ve not really responded to the different pro-life rally experiences that I attended at the beginning of the year.

October is National Respect Life Month, and I realize it is now November. I totally meant to post this in October because it would be more fitting, but like Aggie football, I simply ran out of time.

As I’m still marinating on different ways to be further involved in the pro-life movement, I thought it would be cool to feature how others are involved. Honestly, with over 500,000 people attending the March for Life on a yearly basis, surely there’s someone doing something cool, interesting, clever, impactful, etc. to spread the pro-life message.

And that leads me to Crossroads.

I heard about Crossroads for the first time from a good friend in ministry who did it about 10 years ago. Oddly enough, he’s the same good friend who inspired Lauren to do Crossroads. She is one of my relatively new friends.

Lauren is a student at St. Gregory’s University. I met her at a diocesan service camp reunion last Christmas break, and she later helped me with a Confirmation retreat. You can view her Crossroads profile here: Lauren.

I had some questions for her regarding Crossroads:

What is Crossroads?

Crossroads started 20 years ago when a group of Franciscan University students, inspired by a talk St. John Paul II had given at World Youth Day in Denver, decided that they needed to do something to address the problem of America’s culture of death.  That “something” ended up being hitchhiking to the west coast and walking from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. wearing t-shirts that had the words “Pro-Life” spelled out in duct tape.  Today, Crossroads is a nonprofit organization that sponsors and oversees groups of young adults who walk in three routes across the United States as well as routes across Canada, Australia, Spain, and Ireland every year.  

Why did you want to do Crossroads?

The pro-life movement is a movement that’s happening in every field, all the time.  Every kind of professional, from doctors and lawyers to parents and pastors to journalists and celebrities can help people to understand the sanctity and dignity of human life.  I’m a teenager and a student: I can’t write laws, raise children, or affect people through my work.  But I can spend twelve weeks walking across the country, and maybe that’s crazy enough to get people thinking.  

What was the most rewarding aspect of doing Crossroads?

When we were walking, we were really trying to inspire people to get involved by praying, offering sacrifices, and participate in ministry and activism in their communities.  Because we were literally passing through every place we went to, we never really saw the results of our actions.  With that in mind, I think the most rewarding aspect of Crossroads was just accomplishing the task we set out to do.  At the end of the walk, my team got bumper stickers that looked like the ones people get at marathons, except ours said “2,438” instead of “26.2.”  Being able to say that we walked across the country was amazing.  

What was the greatest challenge?

I suppose the obvious answer here would be “walking,” but I enjoyed that.  My walk’s RV engine blew up after three weeks, just before we crossed the Rocky Mountains.  It was supposed to be fixed within a few days, but due to the inevitable comedy of errors, we didn’t get it back until two days before we reached D.C.  While that led to plenty of adventures living out of a suburban, a minivan, and a host of shady motels, it was pretty difficult.  We joked about being homeless a lot, and even wrote a ballad about it (which can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace or the Gilligan’s Island theme, depending on how bored you are of walking through Missouri).  

Walking across America, did you encounter more people who were pro-life or pro-abortion?

The vast majority of the people who interacted with us (meaning that they honked, yelled at us from their cars, talked to us in grocery stores and gas stations, or came up to us after Mass) were pro-life.  That was one of the most hopeful things I encountered over the summer.  One of the most disappointing things, however, was how few of those people were involved in the pro-life movement in any way.  I hope that maybe by seeing what us walkers were doing and how important life is to us some of them were inspired to do something in their own lives.  

After doing this, what was your response?  What did you do going forward and/or how did this experience change your approach to being pro-life?

I loved it, and I’d really like to walk again because I think that it’s a phenomenal opportunity for sacrifice for any young person.  I think that sacrifice is what I really learned about this summer: small things that would have irritated me or made me angry in the comfort of my college campus simply had to be accepted on the road.  Every aspect of our lives for those 12 weeks was about the other, not about us. 

I recently went on a 20 mile walk to visit a Benedictine monastery, and that is nothing compared to the nearly 2500 miles that people walk for Crossroads. I have much respect for those who participate in Crossroads because I’ve had but a small taste of what they’ve accomplished.

I like what Lauren said how it really taught her about sacrifice. Any young person can better spend their summer doing other things and not face the challenges of walking across America. As any properly formed practicing Catholic would understand, we can suffer to bring about a greater good. They had purpose in their mission by spreading the pro-life message everywhere they walked. The unborn are worth fighting for, even in this way.

I also find it interesting to note that on the ground level, the everyday American people encountered along the road, are pro-life. But not necessarily engaged. I wonder how I can personally inspire others to actively respect and defend the dignity of human life.

While I do find Lauren’s experiences to be inspiring, it’s not practical for me to take that many months of work to do Crossroads. I mean, it’s not like I’m saving vacation days to go to Poland in 2016 or anything. I’ll definitely be praying for Crossroads and their apostolate for next year, though!

You can read stories from the road at their blog (with pictures!): Crossroads Pro-Life Walks

To read up more on what they’re about, who the walkers were this past year, and look into possibly participating in the future, check out their website: http://www.crossroadswalk.org/

-JD

“At this stage of history, the liberating message of the Gospel of life has been put into your hands.” Pope St. John Paul II

All pictures from Crossroads