By: Mariann Hughes, Office of Communications
I wouldn’t say my world entirely revolves around broccoli cheddar soup, but pretty close. I eat it three times a week. I crave it in the middle of the night. What I’m trying to say: broccoli cheddar soup and I are in love. Not much can come between us.
It was about 2 p.m. in my workday yesterday when I realized I hadn’t eaten lunch. And I could hear soup calling me from Panera, 14 blocks away. So I listened to the lure of its voice and headed down Glebe Road for my lunch break.
I secured my soup and was happily strolling back to my car when an attractive young man stopped me. “Excuse me. Can I talk to you for a moment?” In another situation, it is possible that I would have responded enthusiastically. In this case, inwardly I groaned because he sported a pale blue t-shirt with a pro-abortion, pro-contraceptive industry name emblazoned on the front.
“No, thanks,” I said with a fake grin and a crisp tone, my rolling eyes hidden by my sunglasses. “I’m Catholic and extremely pro-life.”
And I kept walking, my heels clicking impressively on the pavement. “Whew, that was close,” I thought, mentally patting myself on the back at the confident and poised manner in which I eluded him.
Then God spoke.
- “Really, Mariann? You wrote a statement the other day about the importance of ‘engaging the culture.’ So, that’s what you think ‘engaging’ is? Fake smile, nasty voice, rolling eyes, snappy heels?”
- “Hey, God, that’s not fair! I told him I was Catholic. That was totally a witness! I could have just said, ‘Thanks, no.’ But I proudly told him of my Faith!”
- “Yeah, that’s great. So now he knows you’re a jerk and a Catholic?”
- “I’m sorry God, but what’s done is done. Too late. I’ll do better next time. My soup is cooling as I stand here motionless in the sidewalk having this internal dialogue with you and looking like a fool.”
- “Next time? How many times have you seen volunteers from this organization outside of Panera in your umpteen quests for broccoli soup? Plus, it’s 96 degrees in Northern Virginia. Is hot soup more important than engaging a soul who volunteers to promote abortion? Go talk to him.”
- “No, God! Come on, you know me. I’m terrible with numbers and stats. When he starts whipping out his ‘proof’ I’m going to say the wrong thing and look like an idiot. That’ll really make the pro-life cause look awesome.”
- “Ha! Well, it’s a good thing I just want you to talk to him. Shake his hand. Ask him why he does what he does. No need to whip out stats. Go. You followed the beckon of broccoli cheddar soup. Now, listen to Me! I’m God!”
So I went back and said softly, “Excuse me?” I shook his hand. He asked if I wanted to donate to women’s rights. I said, “Well, first, can you tell me about your organization?”
So he did. And I listened. I smiled into his eyes and asked how he came to volunteer. He again asked if I wanted to donate. I smiled and asked where the money went. He told me, and asked for a third time if I wanted to donate. I told him I was pro-woman and Catholic, as well as anti-abortion. He said, startled, “Wait, was that you who walked by a few minutes ago and told me the same thing? I didn’t recognize you.” I guess a smiling face really does make a difference. God had made His point.
When the guy realized I wasn’t going to donate, he seemed ready to let the conversation drop. “If you’re a good Catholic, I know you won’t support the work we do.” I told him, “I don’t support many of the ways you employ to help people; I think they are wrong. But I really admire your desire to help women have better lives.” He was friendly and sincere. He listened to me patiently list the concerns I had with funding toward abortion. I told him my name, told him to have a nice day. He told me the same, with a friendly smile and a farewell shake of the hand. And we parted ways.
- “Well, God, that was embarrassing. I looked, as I knew I would, like an idiot. Pretty sure I didn’t change his mind about anything.”
- “Mariann, I didn’t need you to whip out stats and arguments. Tons of people can do that. I just wanted him, at the end of the day, when thinking about all the people who talked with him, remember that one of them, a young woman who disagreed with him, shook his hand, smiled at him and wasn’t a jerk. That’s what he’s going to remember. That’s how I needed you to witness for Me today. So, thank you. Now go eat your soup.”
And you know what? By the time I got back to my desk, the soup was still hot. God, you are so good to me!