Learning to Cry

By Tom Grenchik

December 19, 2014

Friends of mine recently adopted a little girl, “Annie,” from another country. As could be expected, Annie has become the center of attention of her new mom and dad and her three new brothers. One remarkable story they shared is that it took some time living in their home before Annie learned to cry.

In some crowded orphanages, they explained, children learn that crying does not elicit an immediate response. There are simply too many children in need and not enough caregivers to help. Little ones quickly learn that if no one is going to respond, crying doesn’t yield positive results. So, if a child falls down, gets hurt, or needs something, he or she just internalizes it. These children become programmed not to cry out for help. It seems other adoptive parents have shared the same experience.

The story made me stop and think just how much we take for granted. The sound that every new parent awaits in the delivery room is their baby’s first cry. It’s the announcement of the newborn child’s presence. And that cry will be responded to countless times during his or her life.

Crying out for help is human. When we are hurt or overwhelmed, it is healthy and fitting to cry for help. And it is human to want to respond to those who are hurting. As believers in Christ, we know this is not only a human response to suffering – it is our Christian duty to serve those in need.

Our culture, however, has become hardened to many who cry out. We idolize the strong and beautiful and tend to disregard the weak and imperfect.

In our own lives, have we been programed not to call for help ourselves or to look past those who do? Consider the person who feels alone in sickness and may be tempted to feel he or she is a “burden.” Consider the family caring for a child with a disability, who may need help from their neighbors and the church community, but thinks that no one cares. Consider the mothers or fathers of aborted children who, in coming to terms with their grief, may mistakenly assume that the Church is the last place to seek help. Consider the family that has lost employment or is facing financial hardship, but is embarrassed to ask for assistance. Look around, and listen for those cries.

Crying out for help is a good thing. Annie has happily learned this and is keeping her family busy with this wonderful new awareness that the people around her will respond to her in love. And her family loves responding.

May each of us learn (or re-learn) how human it is to ask for help without shame when we need it. May we be aware of those around us who may not have the ability or freedom to ask for much-needed help, especially during the holiday season. And may we always be ready to respond to cries that come our way.

Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the bishops' pro-life activities, please visit www.usccb.org/prolife.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an abortion, find hope and help at www.hopeafterabortion.com or call 888-456-HOPE (4673).