Civilization's Helpless Members

Image Source:  Peter Hagyo-Kovacs from

Image Source: Peter Hagyo-Kovacs from

Author Pearl S. Buck once wrote, "The test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members."


That came to mind when I re-read a reflection a student shared with me several years ago.  After being equipped to engage the culture on abortion, he participated in a pro-life display at the University of Minnesota.  Of the many students he encountered, I was particularly struck by one in particular, whose story he shared as follows: 


"A 19-year-old freshman Muslim woman recounted a riveting story after I called her over to the barricade so we could discuss her thoughts on abortion.  She told me about how her twin sister had become pregnant unintentionally in the recent past.  While abortion was contrary to Islamic teachings, her parents were more concerned with avoiding the disgrace of an unwed and pregnant daughter.  Therefore, they were forcing her to have an abortion against her will.  However, the woman I talked to described how she had helped her sister escape their parents and live in hiding until she gave birth secretly to save the child.  Thankfully, since the birth of the child, their parents have become supportive of the new baby."


This parental abandonment of a pregnant child is unfortunately not an isolated incident, as I wrote about another such case last year.  But what is so strikingly beautiful about both stories is that the pregnant children didn't make a pattern: They refused to abandon their pre-born children the way their own parents abandoned them.  They took a stand; they passed the test of a civil society by protecting and caring for its helpless members.


And by their courageous example, they challenged their parents to do the same.  That is the power of doing the right thing—it inspires others to follow, even if they are initially slow to respond.  Indeed, as author Matthew Kelly has pointed out,


“Virtue inspires me.  Virtue in other people challenges me.  Virtue raises me up.  Virtue allows me to catch a glimpse of what is possible.  Virtue gives me hope for the future of humanity.”