The power of social media and the telling of a story

I saw it first on Facebook Monday morning, July 8. My friend’s post conveyed urgency and asked for prayers. On Tuesday, the story made The Washington Times. Wednesday, Deacon Greg Kandra posted it on his blog at Patheos.com. By Thursday it was on the websites of CNN and the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

And by now you’d have to be living under a rock not to know that a social media post about a U.S. couple planning to abort a baby with Down syndrome unless adoptive parents stepped forward had resulted in hundreds of phone calls and emails from couples ready and willing to welcome the child into their homes. The birth parents currently are reviewing applications for adoption rather than filling out forms for abortion.

While the story is an incredible one that touts the increasing power and reach of social networking, what really struck me was the amount of coverage it got in the secular press. Catholic newspapers, absolutely. Catholic blogs, of course. I’ll even buy The Washington Times. But CNN? The Daily Mail? For a culture seemingly so adamant about protecting a woman’s right to abortion (see Wendy Davis, Texas), you’d think the story about saving one Down syndrome baby from that fate would be swept under the rug.

But it wasn’t. Why?

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Since the story originated at Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville, Va., in my old Diocese of Arlington stomping ground, I called up Father Thomas Vander Woude, pastor, and asked him what he made of it.

Father Vander Woude, who said the church office had received 900 offers to adopt the baby in a period of two days, said that even those with a “secular mindset” feel a particular tug when they see this kind of “outpouring for the little guy.”

But it wasn’t just the David and Goliath aspect of the story that resonated, he said. Rather, the story touched all who heard it because it resounds truth, beauty and compassion.

“Even those who don’t believe in God are still interested in this for a reason — and that is the human heart,” he said. “The human heart is attracted to love, and this is a story of love.”

What Father Vander Woude is saying is that we are a people wired, in our very basic nature, for love. This is how our Father created us, and as such we’re attracted to love from our very core. No matter what beliefs we might have assumed since birth, that reality stays. And it’s stories like this one, with its international appeal, that prove it.

Ironically, Father Vander Woude said that even by the time Holy Trinity posted its original plea Sunday evening, the adoption agency already had several couples interested.

But had the original Facebook post not been broadcast, we wouldn’t have this story: one that, as Father Vander Woude said, renews your hope in humanity. And one that all people — even those who might surprise you — realize is worth telling.