By 2014 Rider, Christine Kania…
Several years ago, a young man from New York City took his own life. In the note that he left behind, he wrote, “I feel like a peanut in Yankee stadium.” Among the stadium seats littered with peanuts and shells, one peanut more or less would make no difference, even for the custodians who sweep them up after the game. No one would bother to avoid stepping on a peanut or kicking it aside. No one would stop to pick it up. What if this man had just one person in his life who didn’t kick him aside – or even better, stooped down to pick him up?
According to CDC statistics, suicide ended 38,364 lives in 2010 and was ranked as the 10th leading cause of death in the US. While the reasons for suicide vary, the dramatic increases stem from the “throwaway culture” that Pope Francis has equated with our country’s staggering abortion rate. In a culture where individual lives seem to have no more value than a peanut in Yankee stadium, ending your own life is a logical option, and ending the life of a preborn child in the womb is a simple medical procedure.
If we look at our own lives in complete honesty, we often succumb to this mentality. Can one life really make a difference? Perhaps we donate to a local food pantry, yet we see that world hunger continues unabated. Perhaps we sponsor a child in a third-world country, yet even the conditions in our own “developed” country seem unconscionable. Perhaps we donate to a local pregnancy resource center, yet see that business at the local abortion facility is undiminished. Even in minor matters, we fail our friends, our family, and ourselves.
But look instead at how your actions influence the individuals around you, or how others have influenced you. Perhaps a smile or a kind word completely changed your day. Perhaps someone did you an unexpected favor or expressed gratitude for something you had done. When she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, Mother Teresa said, “We have been created to love and be loved […] Hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find, it may be in our own home […] I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first.”
If we are going to change this throwaway culture and proclaim the value of each and every human life, we need to start in our own hearts, in our own homes, in our closest spheres of influence. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). We can truly value the lives of other individuals only when we find value and purpose in our own lives. Value your own life, and then you will be able to show others that they are not peanuts in Yankee stadium.
Content and ideas for this post are borrowed from a homily given by Fr. Dan Hoehn, who serves on the executive board of Woman’s Choice Services, a pregnancy resource center in the greater Chicago area.