A few years ago, I was traveling to Florida for a speaking engagement. If anyone has ever visited Orlando, you know how busy that area is — starting with the Orlando airport. The scene that unfolded before me as I attempted to get off the tram and head toward baggage claim is similar to what we’ve been seeing in the sometimes unruly and violent protests that have occurred since the election.
A woman was traveling with her son, who looked to be between 2-3 years old. When the tram stopped and everyone began to exit, the little boy became unglued. Apparently he thought he was already at Disney World and the tram was a fantastic ride that had just ended, and he didn’t understand why. He would not take “no” for an answer.
The tram was packed with other parents trying to collect their toddlers (along with their numerous carry-ons and strollers). There were plenty of other folks like me also doing their best to get to their destinations. However, the mom made it almost impossible for several of us to go on our merry way. Her son refused to move beyond the platform just outside the doors of the tram. He immediately dropped to the floor and began screaming as toddlers often do when they don’t get their way. Instead of quickly scooping him up and moving along, the mom thought it would be best to try and reason with her toddler, despite that her attempt to negotiate was putting others literally in harm’s way.
Several travelers, myself included, practically tripped over the little boy and his mom as we tried to exit the train. I managed eventually to make it around the two of them, and as I hurried off I could still hear the boy making quite a ruckus and drowning out his mother.
Sound familiar? Just take a look at some of the protests and counterprotests that have been happening around the nation. A recent case in point is the agitator who decided to do his best to disrupt a peaceful, mid-February Students for Life rally on the University of Michigan campus by acting much like that toddler in Orlando. As speakers began their presentations from the podium, the student burst into a loud scream until he lost his breath. He apparently just couldn’t handle what he was hearing. This happened repeatedly and, again, much like the little boy who didn’t get his way, when the presenters tried to reason with him he became even more agitated and screamed more loudly than before. Unlike the mother of the screaming child, however, the presenters quickly realized they weren’t going to get anywhere with this student. They ignored him and went ahead with their event, and when the bully realized he no longer had an audience he stopped screaming and disappeared into the crowd.
In order for concerned Catholic Christians trying to do our best to embrace — and share — the truth of our faith in an increasingly hostile environment, we need to be like the other Orlando travelers on the train that day. We have to ignore the temper tantrums and keep our eyes focused on Christ so we can get where we need to be spiritually. We have to keep teaching and preaching the truth in love, but we also have to remember that sometimes there are those who are not ready to listen.
Life is definitely a journey, but today too many see it as a gravy train — a free ride that never ends. We pray for them. We are always willing and ready to answer questions, to extend a helping hand reminding them of God’s mercy. But we can’t allow those who are still like little children, absolutely refusing to take “no” for an answer, to stop us in our tracks and cause us to stumble.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and SiriusXM Channel 130.