We're driving around unfamiliar streets, trying to find a furniture store, when we pass five women standing on a corner surrounding a stroller, a baby, and a sixth woman on her knees.
Her eyes are closed, head bowed, and little puffs of breath ascend from her lips. Words we can't hear inside our snug little Odyssey. They dissipate into the October air before they reach her knitted cap. She is leaning on a sign that reads, "Pray to end Abortion".
"Mom," asks my eleven-year-old. "Doesn't the Bible say you aren't supposed to pray on street corners?"
"It's better than a lot of other things they could be doing on a street corner," my husband says.
We have a discussion about whether or not it's okay to pray on the street corner for a good cause. Maybe, says somebody in the back, they don't really think it's a street corner, since it's gravel, and hidden behind all the stores. More of an alley.
I don't know, I tell them. I do know that God hears your prayer no matter where you are.
Truthfully, I'm embarrassed for these women; I wonder if I would admire them more if there were six or sixty thousand women or maybe if they were on the steps of the Governor's mansion or the White House. Does might make right? Or at least more palatable? Would I join them there?
My first thought, the moment I read the sign, was that praying on the street corner, is not the best cure for social ills. Get up off your knees and do something.
But what can you do about social ills that rest so solidly on individual agency? What do I do about this war that takes more lives every year than both world wars took in terms of military fatalities combined? Read articles that make me say "Yes, that's exactly right," and hope lots of other people stumble across them? Slip a link into my blog on the sly and hope you are inspired to do something about it?
Pretty much. I don't even like to recommend something off the menu at a restaurant new to you. I definitely don't want to explain to you my position on abortion. When I think it's okay, when I don't. Gay rights. The war in Iraq. I don't answer my phone this month, just in case it's a pollster wanting my opinion. Helen got a call last week and they hung up on her the minute she uttered her choice for president. I don't want to offend. I keep a low profile. I say and do nothing to arouse anyone's ire. I pray in my closet–not out of obedience to the biblical injunction, but maybe because I don't want to take a stand. Not where you can see me.
Who am I to despise the women on the street corner?