“The crazies on the sidewalk”

The year 2000 was almost over when my friend suggested I apply for a job at Planned Parenthood. I wanted to work in the medical field and to help women – and I needed a job. I’ll never forget my first day. 

I drove to Planned Parenthood to drop off documents they requested, including my Mexican related studies, to see if I was a good match. A woman praying on the sidewalk called out to me and said “don’t go in there, we can help you.” I hurried in the door. 

Once I was inside, the people at Planned Parenthood told me those were the “crazy people” who stand outside to pray and bother patients. “We do not interact with them, ok?” I said ok, got the job, and from that day on I did as I was told, and didn’t speak to them. I didn’t respond or argue with any of them. They were ‘the crazies’. 

Through the years – even after the surgical abortion clinic changed locations – that crazy lady was still there!!!!! Wherever we moved, she moved there to pray. And she wasn’t alone, often praying on the sidewalk with groups. I remember thinking “why does she do this? Why would she spend her time on the sidewalk; her mornings, in the rain, 100 degrees, even in the cold?” At some point, she and the other “crazies” started to seem familiar. I’d recognize their faces and the times they would pray, but I didn’t understand them. At some point, things changed, and when I had patients who couldn’t afford a pregnancy test, if we didn’t have any help for them – I would refer them to the crazies on the sidewalk. 

In 2016, I took over as Director of the Glendale, AZ Planned Parenthood. On my first day – I remember it was very early – you wouldn’t believe who was the first one to show up at the clinic? Yep! That same crazy lady I met 16 years ago. I thought “she must really be crazy to still be doing this!!” Little did I know, she was praying for me. 

I remember from the first day I worked at Planned Parenthood, I was told “those people on the sidewalk don’t help anyone. They just pray, but in the moment of truth they wont help – they have nothing to offer.” I was starting to question this. 

During my time as Director of the Glendale clinic, the crazy lady and I became polite to one another; we would say “good morning” and I would warn her if she or anyone praying with her was close to causing problems. After Planned Parenthood fired me, my whole world collapsed; it was very hard to think positively. A good friend of mine was approached by the “crazy lady”, asking when was the last time she saw me. She asked to contact me, and I agreed to speak to her. That crazy lady really *did* care for me. She helped me, and made sure my family was ok. She introduced me to other amazing people like Father Don Kline, and Sheila from Life Choices. That crazy lady believed my story when no one else did; she stood by my side. I’m honored to now call that crazy lady, Lynn, my friend. 

Thank you Lynn, Sheila, Fr. Kline and all ‘the crazies on the sidewalk’ who pray every day outside of abortion clinics for people like me. Your prayers helped me, and are clearly heard. I want to be crazy just like you. 

– Mayra Rodriguez