Pro-lifer? The 6th Annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, CA is on Saturday, January 23, 2010. Joining the Walk for the first time? Then this article is for you! Elizabeth Shearer, a volunteer at the Saint Juan Diego Society Women’s Center in San Jose, CA shares her experiences, helpful insights, advice, tips and quips for first time Walkers for life.
Rio: How long have you been volunteering for the Saint Juan Diego Society Women’s Center?
Elizabeth: I have been a volunteer at the Saint Juan Diego Society Women’s Center for about a year and a half. From the first moment I walked in the door to check the place out, I was so welcomed and loved that I was hooked. It’s been a privilege to work with the good people there ever since.
Rio: When did you start joining Walk for Life West Coast? What was your experience like the first time you Walked?
Elizabeth: I attended my first Walk for Life in San Francisco in Jan. 2009. I went with my husband and three small children. We were concerned about the children at first, but we had a double stroller and a wagon, so all the kids could ride or walk as they wanted to. That part worked out well. We got there in time for the pre-Walk rally and it was SO motivational and energizing to be there hearing all the personal stories. It really convinced me that even though it wasn’t the most convenient situation, it was very good that we attended, and attended with the children. I was upset at the beginning of the Walk because so many people were holding signs and I was “just” pushing a stroller with my two youngest in it. A woman came up to me randomly at the beginning of the Walk and said something to the effect of, “Thank you for bringing your children! They are your living sign!” That was one of many wonderful God-incidences we experienced that day. There were so many people. I was amazed at the number. They kept coming and coming. Besides the sheer number of people. Another thing that impressed me were how many young people there were. I would say over half the people I saw were under 18. It was so encouraging to see that because it really shows how this next generation coming up is already learning from the mistakes of their parents. They value life and know it’s worth fighting for. This is another reason to be glad I had my kids with me, so that this type of public witness could be something that is second nature to them. I pray they will always be willing to stand up for those who have no voice, even if it is an unpopular or uncomfortable stand.
Rio: Based on your experience, can you give some advice or tips for people who are joining the Walk for the first time? How should they prepare?
Elizabeth: I think that for first time Walkers, it’s important to consult with other people who have attended the Walk for Life before. If possible, try to join with other people from your church or some other group and carpool together so you have the extra help and support. If you are attending the Walk alone, you’re still fine! You’ll make many instant friends upon arrival. It’s one of the wonders of the Walk for Life. So many amazing people attend, and you’ll enjoy this spoken and unspoken camaraderie with thirty thousand plus of your new best friends! We were blessed to have a family in our church who has attended every Walk since the beginning, to help guide us in making a plan to navigate the city of San Francisco.
It’s important to have a plan before the Walk, especially if you have children. I suggest:
- Dressing Warmly. We were threatened with rain last year and only got a little sprinkle or two. I was told that it has never rained during the Walk before that. Still, it’s always a good idea to come prepared! Wearing layers, rain parkas that can easily folded away, and proper shoes for the long walk would also help you be as comfortable as possible. If you have children, consider bringing backpacks with water and snacks (the Walk takes about three hours to complete and my kids were hungry before the Walk was over.). Perhaps travel games, stuffed animals, blankets, etc. would also be helpful in keeping the little ones happy.
- Studying the Walk route before you leave home. See if you can find places along the route to stop and rest and/or go to the bathroom if you need to. There are portable bathrooms available to Walkers, but not until the end of the Walk at the Marina Green. Most businesses on the Walk route will not allow you to use their restrooms unless you’re a patron, so if you have an urgent need for the bathroom, be prepared to buy something.
- Finding parking in advance. In making your plan, you can decide to either park at the beginning of the walk and take a shuttle back at the end, or you can park at the end (at the Marina Green) and walk, take a cab, bus, etc. to the beginning of the Walk when its over. There are shuttles that will take only the drivers back to their parking at the beginning of the Walk, ensuring no one has to walk another two and a half miles to get back to their cars. I recommend getting there as early as possible to try to get the best (free) parking available. Because the Walk is on a Saturday, it will be easier to find parking.
Following the Walk for Life rules of conduct. The Walk for Life is a peaceful, prayerful protest for Life. We are asked not to carry any inflammatory signs, as appropriate signs will be handed out to anyone who wants one at the beginning of the Walk. We are also asked to be kind and courteous to our fellow walkers and any counter protesters we might encounter, even if they are rude to us. It’s the spirit of love and truth that will win this war!
Rio: What can first timers expect?
Elizabeth: There is a Pre-Walk rally where speakers motivate the crowd while people are still arriving for an hour or so. Then the Walk begins. You can expect the walk to proceed slowly. Anyone of any fitness level can keep up. You can expect to see people of all ages, races, genders and religious affiliations. (My personal favorite group from last year were the “Goths for Life”.)You can expect to hear hymns, singing, chanting and praying by various groups during the Walk. You can expect to see and hear counter protesters too. Many are very rude and display ugly hateful signs. If you have children, it’s easy to steer yourselves to the inside of the Walk to keep the counter protesters on the outside. We stayed on the inside most of the time last year and managed to avoid seeing most of the counter protesters entirely. The route of the Walk is mostly on flat road, but toward the end, there are some small hills to be aware of, but nothing too bad.
At the Marina Green, there will be a post-Walk rally, portable bathrooms, concessions with yummy (warm!) food, live bands performing and booths with info from various pro-life organizations. You can also expect to want to come back next year!