How Lent helps us think of others
Updated: May 31, 2012 3:43PM
I was at a dinner party two weeks ago, and I guess I never realized how much the season of Lent gets mixed into conversation this time of year. Who “gave up” what, who is trying to curb a bad habit, who is going to church more often, who is struggling to keep their Lenten commitment from the first week let alone the entire forty days, becomes the topic of social gatherings and even spring break vacations.
At the party I attended, there was a mom who’d given up snacks, a dad who sacrificed red meat, another who’d given up “swearing,” a mom who’d given up desserts, and even a few who gave up alcohol. To an outsider, our merry little band of dinner partygoers probably looked like a drinking, cussing, self-indulgent, Biblically incorrect lot prior to Ash Wednesday.
I’m always intrigued to hear whether the decision was made due to the desire to follow the mindfulness and deprivation that depicts this holy time of year, or perhaps some pre-spring break diet motivation. What can you give up that’ll skim off a few pounds in time for bathing suits, versus what can you commit to that’ll lead to introspection, not to mention possibly ridding yourself of a bad habit? Do you “give up” sweets and then load up on salty snacks? And is that true deprivation or good strategy?
For me, I feel like I’m always trying to eat better, do better, be better, much to the limitations of my own weaknesses, stress levels, failure to commit to improvements long-term. Lent gives me structure by which I wouldn’t normally be bound in my everyday choices. It makes me truly stop and think – about others, about myself, about those less fortunate, about discipline. If I make a simple vow to give up my late-night snacking, it’s certainly not going to cure world hunger. However, on days when I haven’t had time to eat enough throughout the day and I’d normally opt for a cheese and crackers-fest around 11 p.m., it sure makes me think about those who go to bed hungry every single night.
In honor of our son and brother, Steven, who always gave up his favorite treat, soda, for Lent, my family does this in his memory, even though we commit to our own sacrifices as well. It helps us focus on the life of the boy we miss so terribly, and who lost his life in an accident just moments after celebrating the end of Lent with his first soda in 40 days.
I was really impressed with a dad who recently told me of his Lenten almsgiving. He will anonymously pick up a restaurant tab for someone in the armed services, or anonymously put a gas card or food card in the mail to someone who is struggling. In short, he performs random acts of generosity for others instead of treating himself, remaining mindful of his good fortune.
With Easter just days away, Lent is obviously almost over. I, for one, am pretty ready for that. Yes, I did stick to my commitments this year, but yes, I’ll definitely enjoy a few treats on Sunday. And one of the first for my family will be a “group soda.”
Lake Forester columnist Maria Malin can be reached at email@example.com