A couple of months from now when the Christmas season rolls around again, I know that my wife and I will once again watch her favorite Christmas movie - "It's a Wonderful Life." You probably remember the story of George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, who is facing so much trouble that he has decided to take his own life. Fortunately, an angel named Clarence talks him out of it by pointing out how much poorer everyone else's life would have been if he had not been born.
It is a marvelous message to think about in this month when we celebrate life and when we remember how the national scandal of abortion has robbed us of so many lives. I don't pretend to understand the kind of tortured thinking that caused the fictional George Bailey to consider taking his own life, and I certainly cannot comprehend the decision of a woman to take the life of the child in her womb. I can only imagine the desperation that she must feel, perhaps the fear for her future, or the sense of having no other way out of her situation.
Most of these women have no "Clarence" to show them the loss that the world will experience not having their child among us, to let them see how the world is a darker place without their child, to help them, like George Bailey, reconsider their decision.
The tragedy of abortion does not stop with just the loss of the life of the child in the womb, but in the loss that the entire world experiences without each of those infinitely valuable persons among us. Because we are all linked, each loss affects us all.
This is said so well by the writer Frederick Buechner who compared humanity to an enormous spider web that is set to trembling if it is touched anywhere. "The life that I touch for good or ill", Buechner said, "will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place and time my touch will be felt. Our lives are linked."
Our insistence on promoting a Culture of Life comes directly from this principle: that because each life is precious from conception until natural death, each life that is lost diminishes us all, and each indignity that is suffered hurts each one of us. Martin Luther King once said that "Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere." In the same way, a disregard for life in any circumstance threatens the value of life in every circumstance.
The real issue is whether to support and safeguard the sanctity of all human life, or to accept a culture where some human lives are valued and others are not. Our respect for life must be consistent and all-embracing, and insistent upon the dignity of the unborn, those with disabilities, those suffering at the end of life, the poor, the homeless, the prisoner, and the marginalized.
We are right to mourn the loss of the unborn child because we are diminished for not having been blessed with their smile or cheered by their laughter, or felt compassion for their cry. Each life and every life - regardless of their circumstances - makes us richer just by their existence.
The truth is, as a wise man once said, that we will never recognize the true value of our own lives until we affirm the value in the life of others. Life is wonderful, and each life enriches us all.
Deacon Don Weigel is the associate public policy coordinator at Catholic Charities of Buffalo and is a Global Fellow with Catholic Relief Services. He may be reached at email@example.com.