Today starts the first day of Lent, the Christian observance of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. For those of you who might not know… Lent as described by Wikipedia, is traditionally marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance, (regret for and amending of our sins) for 40 days. Many who observe Lent may fast or give up favorite things like chocolates, alcohol or swearing, others may attend church services more regularly to renew their faith.
After speaking with my minister a few years ago, I have taken a slightly different tack when it comes to Lent. Rather than giving up luxury items or fasting, I try to be a better person in my treatment, care, and interaction of/with others for those 40 days.
Some examples of how I’ve participated in Lent have been:
- Working at my local food bank
I’ve continued doing this to this day
- Taking the higher road/giving the benefit of doubt when faced with adversity
I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. Perhaps their anger or rudeness is not really about me (even though may seem like it). Perhaps he/she is just having a really bad day and I’m in front of them. Reacting to their rudeness or anger it may only escalate it or extend it to others later in the day. Same goes for someone who cuts me off. I try to think that they are in a bigger hurry than me. (Note: Candidly, this perspective doesn’t always work, but I do try to put it into practice when I can!)
- Practicing random acts of kindness
I’ve added change to an expiring meter, helped someone up the stairs, and simply just held the door open for someone else.
- Appreciating the things that I have in my life vs. the things that I do not
I’ve found this last one harder at times to accept, because there are times I’ve yearned for things that I wanted vs. needed. So perhaps in retrospect, this is the one I should really focus on during each Lenten season and beyond because it talks about giving things up.
Maybe I’m taking more of a modern twist on the whole Lenten season or I’m missing the point. I’m just not sure I see the value or what I would truly take away from just giving up my favorite foods for 40 days when I know that I can have them again in March or April. Perhaps this true appreciation and the act of helping is a better way to look at this time of year, at least for me. I know it makes me feel like I’m making a difference in making my community and my world a better place. And hey, if I can continue to do these things beyond the allocated 40 days, all the better.
If you’re celebrating Lent this year, what will be your approach?