Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Planned Parenthood: A Part of My Life for Fifty Years

My parents began their involvement with Planned Parenthood of Northwestern Ohio when I was a child, so we're talking at least fifty years ago, if not more. They served on the board of directors, did fund-raising, and worked with the organization at all levels. I learned about the mission by osmosis, and in doing so, it became part of my consciousness. While the methods of family planning were still a mystery to a child of eight or so, the impression that I got from both of my parents was that women making choices about their lives and having a strong support system of caring friends and community was a formative part of my growing up.

I learned that Planned Parenthood could be an oasis in a desert of choices for healthcare, support, and refuge for women and their families regardless of their circumstances. A stint of running the switchboard for the local office to relieve the regular operator during her lunch hour taught me swiftly that PPNO was a lifeline that went far beyond its mission. Its location in a depressed neighborhood in a depressed city made it more than just a medical facility: it was a safe place for many people when they nowhere else to turn.

To this day my parents are still involved with Planned Parenthood -- that's Mom (center) and Dad (right) at the recent "I Stand With Planned Parenthood" rally.
They have made their contribution through their checkbook, but more importantly, they provided -- and still provide -- leadership, inspiration, love, and caring. And they have endowed their four children (only one of whom was planned) with the sense of duty and awareness of the role that we all have to play in giving to our community and making the lives of others as good as we would want our own lives to be.

They have borne the slings and arrows of the anti-choice brigades with a grace and tolerance that I admire. They also put their beliefs to work when they ran their window and door business in conservative northern Michigan by supporting the renovation of a local PP office with products sold at or below cost. It might have cost them some customers, but they didn't care; the building was more important.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for teaching me that there is nothing so worthy as helping people and expecting nothing in return but the humble joy of giving. Nothing has been more life-affirming than that.

Read the rest of the My Planned Parenthood Carnival posts here.