Juno’s Baby’s Fingernails
I recently watched the movie Juno for the 2nd time with some of my very good friends, and it caused me to laugh and to smile and reflect - and my eyes even got a little misty a time or two.
But there is one scene in particular that I can’t get out of my mind. On the DVD it is scene #7 called “Fingernails” and it lasts 2:49. Here’s what happens, for those who have not yet seen the movie...and to refresh the memories of those who have.
Juno, a young pregnant teenager, is heading into an abortion clinic to terminate her pregnancy. However, outside of the clinic she meets a protestor - Su-Chin, an acquaintance from her school - who is holding a sign that says “NO BABIES LIKE MURDERING.” And Su-Chin is chanting “All babies want to get borned! All babies want to get borned!”
After some awkward small talk, Juno continues to the clinic and Sue Chin calls out to her. Juno stops in her tracks but does not turn around. Su-Chin says, “Your baby probably has a beating heart, you know. (Juno doesn’t react) It can feel pain (again, Juno doesn’t react). And it has fingernails.” At the mention of fingernails, Juno turns around and says, “Really, fingernails?” She momentarily considers the concept, and then heads into the clinic.
While Juno is in the waiting room of the abortion clinic, something powerful happens. All she can notice is the fingernails of everyone else in the room. A nearby teen bites her thumbnail. Another woman who is waiting scratches her arms with long fake nails. The receptionist clicks her nails on the front desk. Another woman blows on her fresh manicure. Everyone seems to be fidgeting with their fingers. Juno suddenly looks terror-stricken…and she runs as fast as she can out of the clinic.
The next thing Juno says in the movie is to her friend Leah, “I couldn’t do it…”
I simply am in love with this scene because of its beauty and because I think it has a lot to teach those of us who, like Su-Chin, are striving to help troubled teens. It teaches us that although holding signs and protesting may be effective a percentage of the time, what is most important is that we are present to teens and that we love them.
In the movie, the character Su-Chin is kind of a dork, and I can relate to that! I don’t know about you, but I often feel like a dork. I am way older than the teens I am trying to reach, and as hard as I try I know I fail miserably in my attempts to be hip and trendy in their eyes. Also, Su-Chin must feel awkward there on the sidewalk. There is a good chance that she could be lots of other places, but she chooses to put herself in a position where she is visible, vocal, and wanting to be helpful. She chooses to do what is uncomfortable in hopes of changing the hearts of the mothers going into the clinic. I think that God often calls all of us to do things that are awkward and uncomfortable to reach His people with love!
I can also relate to Su-Chin because although she is not even close to being “cool” (whatever that means!), Su-Chin loves people – borned and unborned – and Juno is able to intuitively know that. I would like to believe that the teens we encounter know that we love them – and more than anything, that’s what will cause them to listen to our words. Even though her words weren’t perfect, Su-Chin did speak the truth in love, and that gave the Spirit an open door to get through to Juno’s heart. Whenever we speak any truth, we need to make sure that it is with nothing but love.
And, finally, Su-Chin spoke what was on her heart, even though it was somewhat random. It intrigues me that it wasn’t what was written on the protest sign that got Juno’s attention and turned her heart, nor was it the formulaic words or bumper-sticker slogans that Su-Chin spoke. But, led by the Spirit of Love, Su-Chin somewhat randomly and unconventionally mentioned fingernails…and fingernails are what got through to Juno.
Maybe it’s just me, but here’s what I learned from this scene, and I think this is why I can’t get it out of my brain. It reminded me that…
1. It’s OK to be kind of a dork.
2. The most important thing of all is that I really love people.
3. If I speak the truth in love, people might stop and listen.
4. If I am led by the Spirit of Love, even my most random words can make a difference.
And, by the way, I just gotta let you know that many teens in the Archdiocese are prayerfully doing what Su-Chin did in this movie – offering counsel and prayer on the sidewalks outside of abortion clinics! The Respect Life Apostolate has a special program specifically for teens to train them to serve on the sidewalks – offering love, affirmation, and helpful options – without judgment - to women who are struggling. Teens are an especially powerful witness on the sidewalks because their peers are often the ones going into the abortion clinics. If you, or any teens you know, might feel called to embody Christ’s hope in this way, contact Shelly Fravala, Program Coordinator for the Respect Life Apostolate, at 314-792-7555. There just may be a Juno out there to whom you can be a Su-Chin!
Paul Masek is the coordinator of the REAP Team, a Catholic youth retreat ministry of the Catholic Youth Apostolate of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He is married to Lisa, and they have four kids - Jacob, Audrey, Kyle, and Dominic. You can follow Paul on Twitter: @clasekmasek, and you can contact Paul via email: firstname.lastname@example.org