Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent, and the Ashes on my Forehead

Ah, once again, Lent is here.  This is my favorite time of year. Not because the weather is warming up (this year we won’t even hardly notice spring because our winter has been so incredibly mild).  Not because the flowers and trees will bloom soon (although they do make the world a lot prettier).  And not because Easter is now only 40 days away (and I sure do look forward to eating all that chocolate).

No, I like Lent because it gives me the opportunity to look inward and focus on what I can be doing to improve my interactions with those around me. It is also a time when I examine the spiritual aspect of my life and how I can better weave that (seemingly) small thread into the big tapestry of my life.

As I sat in Mass this morning, I reflected on what I hope to accomplish this Lenten season.  There are the usual promises to focus on being more positive and kind to others, attend church more regularly, maybe give up desserts once in a while (but I am NOT, under any circumstances, giving up coffee this year.  Been there, done that.  NOT a good idea if I want to accomplish the first two missions listed). 

Then I thought about how perfectly Lent fits into this blog and decided to list a few things we might all want to concentrate on over the next 40 days, hopefully making the world around us a bit more peaceful, and maybe even discovering new talents we possess.

So, here goes - some Lenten recommendations for all of you to consider adapting into your lifestyle for at least a brief period of time:

  • ·         Alms-giving.  Find a group that provides assistance for something that is important to you: the Humane Society, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a local school, a community clinic, a local arts council.  Whatever your interest, seek it out and give them a buck or two.  But, and this is important, DON’T TELL ANYONE YOU DID IT.  Don’t be like the hypocrites and announce your good deed to the world.  Rather, better not to let the right hand know what the left is doing (or something like that….)
  • ·         Be kind.  Yep, this means don’t flip off the lady who just cut you off as you were trying to park in that great spot at Wal-Mart.  Don’t get angry at the neighbor who lets his dog run loose and considers your flower bed its personal toilet.  Give that Negative Nelly a hug.  Don’t talk badly about your spouse’s boss (or family members).  Come on, even I can do this for a couple of weeks.
  • ·         Go to church (or synagogue or mosque, or whatever your culture recognizes as a sacred place).  Learn about a tradition you never quite understood before.  Embracing our spirituality helps us to better understand ourselves within our own cultures and communities.
  • ·         Use a talent you have neglected.  If you like to sing, join the choir.  If you like to paint, paint a picture.  If you are a great speaker, volunteer to be a presenter or lector at church or read a book to your child’s class.  If you like to play music, do it – or sign up to take lessons.  Our talents, no matter how small they may seem, have the ability to enrich others’ lives.  Nurture them so you may be able to utilize them in your community more effectively.
  • ·         Make a sacrifice.  No, not animal or human.  What this means is to be willing to forego something you like in order to give someone else the opportunity to do something they enjoy.  Take your kids to see that whale movie – they’ve been begging you for weeks now.  Husbands, take your wife out to dinner (no, carry-out doesn’t count.  They still have to set the table and clean up after you guys).  Wives, let your husband watch ESPN all day Saturday or Sunday (the “honey-do” list will still be there after Easter).  Let your sister borrow your favorite pair of jeans for her next date.  Buy your co-worker a Starbucks on your way to work.  I’m not talking complete martyrdom here, people.  Just do something a little thoughtful for someone else, especially if it takes you out of your comfort zone a little.

At the end of the 40-day period, if we all try and do some of these things (and maybe a few others I haven’t yet thought of), imagine how much brighter the world may seem to those around us. And, if it’s true that if you do something consistently for 30 days it becomes a habit, well, giddy-up.  We may just be one step closer to changing the world!

Now, I think it’s time for me to go wipe those ashes off my forehead….

What are your plans for Lent this year?  What ideas have I left off the list?

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