Following the disastrous 2016 election season, I knew that I had to find a positive way to focus the despair and frustration I felt or sink into depression so deep that I might never emerge. I chose to join the battle for abortion access as my return path to sanity and signed up to escort at EMW.
At 65 years of age, and as a person who will generally go a long way to avoid conflict, I wondered whether this would be the right option for me. I went to a training session where experienced escorts introduced the Points of Unity, guidelines for effective escorting, the Drama Triangle, and tips on managing the antis who congregate in front of the clinic every morning. OK, I thought to myself, this doesn’t sound so bad.
Then I went to the sidewalk.
The noise, the shoving and pushing, the harassment, the rudeness, the shaming and threats from the antis were worse than I could have imagined.
But the strength and dignity of the escorts in the face of that abuse was amazing.. That’s the key.
I’ve spent eight months as an escort now, studying and trying to absorb the Points of Unity in my sidewalk interactions. I am seeing their effectiveness more clearly each week as I attempt to practice non-engagement with the antis, to seek consent from clients before jumping to conclusions about what they might need, and to focus solely on support and empowerment for the client. It’s surprising how easy it is to ignore the foolish sidewalk drama when all my attention is directed fully toward the clients and their safe access to the clinic.
Even more remarkable is how well this emphasis on non-engagement and clarity of purpose has transferred into the other parts of my life. I am learning that the distractions of endless political tweets and posts do not have to interrupt my work, my family time, or my sleep. I am learning to focus on one task at a time. I am learning that we can’t change the behavior or the opinions of those who disagree with us, but by offering our time and our support and our attention we may be able to improve the lives and situations of those with whom we directly interact.