While I was there, something almost incredible happened. I'll report the details in timeline fashion:
9:01--I arrive at PP. As I'm getting out of my car, I see fellow 40DFLer Steve pull up. We greet each other and head over to "the car" to get out the 40DFL stuff. It's locked. I go back to my car to get my own literature. Steve calls 40DFL coordinator Paul to see who has the key.
9:10--A car comes down the drive, passes us, and turns into the clinic. I jog into "the position" by the "No outlet" sign, as close as possible to "the line," literature in hand.
9:13--The car parks really far away from the clinic door. Presently, a young couple emerges and begins walking toward the clinic door.
9:14--The couple nears me, I shout a greeting and the man responds in turn:
Me: G'Morning9:15--The couple, still walking toward the door, disappears from sight (those of you who have been to PP know what I mean--you can't see people walk in the door from where we usually hand out literature). Twenty seconds later they reappear, and start heading back to their car.
Me: How are you?
Man: Good, thanks.
Me: (stumbling) Uh...err...I have some excellent alternatives to this place if you know someone who's facing an unplanned pregnancy.
Man: (dismissively): Ok thanks.
9:16: They start their car and begin heading out of the parking lot. I decide to just wave and not offer literature, seeing as they didn't seem interested when I'd talked to them. To my surprise, the car stops right beside me and the man rolls down the window. (Personal note: Sometimes it's when you're trying the least that you get results. I wonder if this applies to Stat 408?)
"Can we have one of your pamphlets?" I detect perhaps a trace of fear in his voice. I give him one of our "We're Hear for You" brochures and an Arbor Vitae flyer. After I explain the latter, he thanks me and drives off. Steve comes by to report that he'd seen the woman reading a brochure as the car left. I am elated!
9:17: I start a rosary, admittedly thinking more about the couple than the first Joyful Mystery. I ponder why they turned around and left so quickly.
9:19: The second Joyful Mystery is interrupted by a peculiar CLICK-CLA-CLICK sound. I hear keys jingling. Then it clicks! (no pun intended) The door had been locked! The couple had approached, found it locked, and turned back to their car. No wonder they had reappeared so quickly!
9:19-9:34: I reflect on the preceding events. PP had just lost a customer by about four minutes. Who knows--perhaps an unborn baby escaped death by four minutes. I can't stop thinking about the enormity of the implications. Little do I know the disappointment that is to follow...
9:34-10:15: The car reappears. The couple walks again to the door, ignores my "hello again," and enters the clinic. They wave on the way out but don't stop to talk. I'm too surprised and stunned to do much.
* * *
Before the car reappeared I was already envisioning the triumphant blog post I was going to write about the seemingly miraculous situation. Despite the incredibly disappointing ending, I still feel obliged to tell the whole story, both to encourage prayers for the couple, and also just to provide an honest account of the ups and downs of sidewalk counseling.
My hope is that this will encourage us all to fight all the harder for life, especially by participating even more intensely in this fall's 40 Days for Life campaign. And there is, of course, a silver lining. An abortion takes much longer than the 41 minutes the couple was inside. If the woman really was pregnant and abortion-minded, we can still pray that the Hand of Providence will somehow guide her own hand back to the pro-life literature still presumably in her car; and in so doing, guide her mind and her heart to chose life.