Teens step up to challenge of upholding dignity of life

This past weekend St. Francis By the Sea and St. Gregory the Great Catholic churches took 34 seventh- through 12th-graders, 12 adults, two bus drivers, 300 Hot Hands, 150 granola bars and 50 sack lunches to Washington, D.C.

It was our annual pilgrimage to the March for Life, the peaceful demonstration against the legalization of abortion in the United States. More than a political event, the March for Life has turned into a celebration of the dignity of all human life. We stress to the kids that all human life is a gift from God and we don't just want the laws to change -- we want to live in a world that upholds the dignity of all human beings because it's the right thing to do.

A confirmation that our teens are bringing about this change ahead of any legal action occurred before the actual March for Life activities took place. We had just spent the morning touring the Holocaust museum, the Smithsonians and the National Archives -- and learning important lessons about layering clothes in winter weather. We were herding the freezing, under-dressed youths onto the bus for an evening event outside the city. My only focus was counting heads, but one of the teens tugged at my sweatshirt and said, "Miss Alison, there's a guy out there digging through the trash. Can I give him something to eat?"

She was right. I hadn't even seen the man. I knew that I had an extra sandwich, so I went to get it out of my bag. I didn't announce this to the rest of the group, but when I turned around there were dozens of kids (and observant adults) passing up their snacks. By the time I returned to the front of the bus, my arms were full of Capri Suns, peanut butter crackers, hand warmers and cookies.

Our driver accompanied the student who offered the homeless man the collection. The man accepted everything but the beef jerky. And who can blame him, really?

The thing that got to me was this: I had walked right by a man digging in a trash can, but a 17-year-old noticed and did something about it.

It's moments like this that fill me with hope. It might be a long time before the laws in our country change, but teens today are already full of compassion and a sense of justice.

The words of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew, "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40), and "What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me" (Matthew 25:45), are a way of life for the teens I was with all weekend.

How about you?

Alison Griswold is the director of youth ministry at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church. Follow her on Twitter @alisongriz.Read her blog at