We are extremely excited to announce the winners of our first essay contest, cosponsored by ALL’s Culture of Life Studies Program and the Institute for Excellence in Writing.
We received over 600 essays from pro-life students throughout the country—all on fire for speaking the truth. The parents and teachers of these students have done a stellar job in teaching them to be strong pro-life voices on behalf of preborn children. There is so much wisdom and understanding in the next generation!
Students competed in two categories divided by age. Those 12 and under (Category 1) were asked to write about the “least of these” in their lives, drawing from Jesus’s words in Matthew 25:40. Students ages 13 to 18 (Category 2) were asked to write about what it means to be unconditionally pro-life and to show us their plan to proclaim, celebrate, and serve the gospel of life in their own lives.
Micah Vawter—the first-place winner in Category 1—wrote a heartfelt and moving essay about his brother Matthew who has Down syndrome. His essay touched us deeply. It is a piece that inspires us all to stand up for the “least of these” in our world, starting with the people closest to us.
Jamie Lim—the first-place winner in Category 2—wrote an eloquent and edifying essay that perfectly conveys what it means to be unconditionally pro-life, namely, showing love and respect to others through our words and actions. Using the metaphor of a sunflower field, Jamie informs us that every human being is a beautiful, unique gift from God.
We hope you enjoy reading these essays as much as we did. You can find the second- and third-place winners from both categories on our website at ProLifeEssay.com.
First Place Winner
Micah Vawter, age 12 Vawter Academy, Walla Walla, Washington
My Brother, Matthew
One summer afternoon, we all smiled as my 10-year-old brother Matthew cheerily yelled “Merry Christmas!” to the family sitting at the table next to us as we were leaving a restaurant. At first, they were bewildered because it was nowhere near Christmastime. But then we all laughed and they started smiling too. I giggled and put my arm around him, holding his soft little hand. I wondered how my life and the lives of the people around us would be different if we didn’t have Matthew in our family.
While my mom was pregnant with Matthew, he was diagnosed with Down syndrome and heart defects so severe that the doctors told Mom that he probably would die before birth. If he lived to be born, he would probably only live a couple of minutes, or maybe a few weeks, but he would definitely not live until his first birthday. The doctors tried to convince my mom to abort Matthew, but Mom refused. The doctors pressed, but Mom’s answer was the same. Matthew was born weighing only four pounds, too weak to eat or even cry. Our family took him home to love him for as long as we had him. After six months, Matthew was growing stronger and not weaker as the doctors had thought he would. When we took him back to the hospital, the cardiologist found that Matthew’s heart had grown and fixed itself in ways that the doctors had never seen. Only one surgery was needed to repair his heart completely. The surgery worked, and now Matthew is a bundle of joy with four siblings and a heart that works perfectly.
To the doctors who suggested abortion, Matthew’s life had no value. That is exactly what Jesus is talking about when He says, “Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” He is saying that the least of these are the disabled, the elderly, the “unwanted” children, and people such as Matthew, who have no value in the eyes of society. But Jesus says we should all care for and love the least of these, not disregard them. I care for Matthew by giving him a little extra help with everyday tasks, such as putting his shoes on or helping him put his clothes on in the morning. He also takes a little longer to learn things. Sometimes I have to take a moment to slow down and explain something to him. However, the benefits that he brings us far outweigh the small sacrifices that we have to make for him. Matthew is a window into the love and joy of God. He has an unconditional love for everyone and forgives everyone quickly. Just giving him a hug or a word of encouragement can change his mood entirely. He constantly prays and loves to go to church. Matthew can’t hide his emotions, so I can always tell if he is feeling sad or lonely or exited or happy. People with Down syndrome like Matthew have incorruptible, pure souls. They are valuable and needed in this world as an example of how to live our lives with a childlike faith.
Every baby should have a chance to live a full and happy life. Abortion takes away that chance. Jesus says that however we treat the disabled and unwanted is how we are treating Him. He is telling us to care for His people and help them. Babies with Down syndrome or other disabilities have just as much of a right to life as we do, but 90-93 percent of parents who discover their baby has Down syndrome choose abortion. These babies who are precious and loved by Jesus are cast out, unloved, and hated by the world. All they need is love, a home, and a family, just like the rest of us. Everyone can do something in life to help. People can vote for candidates who support pro-life legislation and volunteer for or donate to pro-life organizations. Everyone can also help in little ways, such as becoming friends with someone with disabilities.
Standing up for ‘the least of these’ means showing the world their value and seeing the inherent value in every human being. Jesus teaches us that every person in the world is priceless in the eyes of God. We should all try to help in whatever ways we can to carry out God’s plan to help these people. They have many things that they can teach us and show us about loving God with all of your mind, heart, and soul. We need to show society that all of the people on earth are precious and that the people they consider the least might be the most valuable of us all.
First Place Winner
Category 2 (age 13-18)
Jamie Lim, age 13 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School, Keller, Texas
The Field of Life
If life were a sunflower field, each sunflower would be different—its radiant glow and rare fragrance producing beauty that it alone can cultivate. Like the numerous sunflowers, every person has his own special gift that is waiting to be unearthed and to bloom into something truly magnificent. And like the sunflowers, people experience setbacks and weaknesses. However, just because a particular flower lacks the height of its companions or carries a few shriveled petals does not mean that it has fallen from its state of beauty and deserves to be wrenched from the ground. If given the chance, that sunflower may sprout more petals or yield the most seeds. Similarly, in life, no person’s human dignity can ever be taken away; everyone has a calling, a purpose that is unique to him. Everyone is entitled to have a chance to live a meaningful life. To be unconditionally pro-life means respecting and loving all people and God—through our actions and words, and in our thoughts.
It is said that actions speak louder than words. One’s actions can affect others deeply, good or bad. Being actively pro-life means aiming to protect innocent preborn babies, striving to show everyone that all lives matter, and actually living out these moral ethics. Joining pro-life organizations, representing those who have no voice, and donating generously to pro-life charities are ways to support the growth of life. One must remember that in a world saturated by personal glory and fame, even the most seemingly insignificant acts of love are important and can touch the hearts of those who seek them. In the past, I have handed out baby bottles after Mass as part of a pro-life campaign. With each bottle I distributed, I thought about all those babies and their mothers whom I was helping, and I could feel God’s light radiating from me. People who are undoubtedly pro-life should spend their lives allowing God’s light to shine through them.
At school, simply stopping to help someone gather their books off the floor or being mindful that all students’ voices should be heard demonstrates one’s service and dedication to helping others. It is important to remember that one’s reason for displaying kindness holds just as much weight as the kindness that is shown. If someone chooses to exhibit compassion only because he wishes to gain attention or praise, then his actions have lost truth. A genuine act of love should come not only from inside the heart, but from deep within the soul. Actions truly have strong voices, and I know that I want mine to have melodious voices whose harmonies are able to reach the hearts of other people.
Words can be sweeter and more golden than honey, but they can also be harsh, sharp as a sword, piercing a person through his heart. One’s words can define him, revealing his true colors whether he realizes it or not. If someone is pro-life, his words should speak of kindness, love, and a true longing for the best for others. A way to demonstrate the power of words is through speeches that inspire others to support life, especially life that is innocent yet endangered. In everyday life, one word can make someone’s day bright. Offer those who are anguished a few words of encouragement, those who are frightened a word of safety, and those who are wrapped in sorrow a word of understanding. One of my friends was seeking advice from me, and instead of taking part in an exciting game of kickball, I decided to set aside this time to talk with her. It was obvious that talking with my friend made us both feel good. Still, it is important to keep in mind that one’s words have no meaning unless they speak of truth. One should understand that seeking admiration from others instead of actually wishing the best for somebody takes the beauty away from even the most well said words. This world can be dark, but one’s voice can be the light that others are looking for and that others need to guide them away from despair. One’s voice can be a light that forever burns in the hearts of others after being lit.
Words and actions directly affect others, whether in ways that benefit people or attempt to bring them down. However, thoughts play an important role in life, too. A person who is pro-life will not cause pain in others. His thoughts will be pure, unblemished, and reflected completely in words and actions. People tend to be truest in their minds because nobody else is able to hear their thoughts. They forget that though they are able to hide secrets deep inside their hearts, God knows and will always know what is hidden. A mindset that supports all life includes hoping for the best for everyone, even those who stand as hindrances and try to block one from achieving his goal. During competitions that I participate in, I tell others the two simple words: “Good luck.” My words are truly the luster of my thoughts. Though I have the drive to win, I do not wish harm on other contenders. Being pro-life means having compassionate thoughts toward others and not acting or saying something that is false and contradictory to this. Thoughts matter, for they are the root of people’s actions and words. It is in thoughts that an individual’s real motive is seen, so one must let his thoughts be a source of goodness.
Being pro-life is not limited to supporting the preborn babies who are in danger of abortion, though it is most commonly known for this. Pro-life means loving all life, all people who were created in the image and likeness of God, in thoughts and through actions and words. If one loves and respects others, he loves and respects God through them. A simple act of kindness, one word of love, or a short prayer for compassion can soothe and give comfort. Through the darkness and the pain, one must always remember to put others first and to seek not for attention, but for ways to better serve others like Jesus, who came down to Earth “not to be served but to serve.” I know that every day brings new opportunities to mirror Jesus. I can participate in food drives, donate my time and talent to charities, and find ways to advocate the rights of human beings even in the littlest things. When a classmate forgets to bring lunch, I can offer him some of mine. When I notice people being left out of discussions, people whose voices have been trampled on, I can speak up on their behalf and ensure that everyone is heard. In this world of anguish and despair, my thoughts, words, and actions can be mellifluous songs that are able to heal people’s pain, flames of hope that warm people’s souls, and powerful roots that have the capacity to bloom into a magnificent field of sunflowers deep in the hearts and lives of others.