Therese was a hero in the same vein as my father: one who would lay down their own life for a time and take up the cross of another. To my knowledge she was never in a position to wake with a prison rat on her chest but she did abandon her own daily trivialities to cross Canada on foot in order to raise awareness for the Pro-Life movement. Fresh from the seventh grade and eager to be part of what I deemed a massive political movement I enthusiastically agreed to spend a few days with her as my father drove the crawling camper that followed her along the shoulder.
I had expected it to be a rather glamorous and shiny experience - truth is, I spent most of the time reading Cynthia Voigt and sucking on sugar cubes in the bunk over the cab. I did walk with her for short distances - sometimes just the two of us, sometimes a small crowd as we journeyed through the little towns of southwestern Ontario. Often, the mayor would greet us and offer us their town pin which I would proudly attach to my "Venture" t-shirt as a trophy of all this good I was helping to accomplish. Television cameras came once and filmed us walking past a grave yard - a little band of save-the-children and acid-wash jeans marching with purpose.
I was very proud and thick-banged and when I entered the eighth grade that fall I boasted of my "adventure" that surely saved a thousand unborn babies from abortion and a thousand elderly people from euthanasia. I was a hero in my own brain - and who could argue the difference I made by riding in a groaning motor home with my bare feet propped on the dash, taking the biggest piece of Skor bar for myself while I saved two thousand souls from untimely demise.
Truth is, it's an experience I cherish. Those times of listening to my father sing or whistle from behind the big wheel, Therese rubbing her aching feet at the end of the day but not even dreaming of stopping, the ancient priest who blessed me for being part of something big - who bent down on protesting joints to present his wrinkled cheek for a kiss, the pride I felt when kicking up dust along the edge of a big highway or a quiet road...I wouldn't trade those days. Somehow they have shaped me, convicted me, moved me to always think beyond myself and that's a precious, precious thing.