In the Christian world the season of Lent starts on Ash Wednesday (February 18 this year) which is the day after Mardi Gras’ Fat Tuesday and it ends on Easter Sunday (April 4 this year). Lent lasts 40 days excluding Sundays, in accordance with Christian culture’s already preordained holy worship days. The idea behind Lent is to simplify everyday living into a time of little distractions and much reflective thought.
Ash Wednesday is about thinking intentionally about “from whence we came, our vulnerable nature and that hope reigns supreme.” One is supposed to take the reminder of the “mark of the ashes” and ponder the negative temptations in life, make some soul stretching decisions about how to manage those unhealthy distractions in a way that grows the emotional, personal, physical, and spiritual self for the betterment of the total being.
Many folks I know stop eating chocolate or cut out soda or join a gym or buy a bike or make a deal with themselves to volunteer more or eat less fried food. While these are challenging choices I often wonder, especially on Easter when the chocoholics are demolishing those bunny ears and Church’s fried okra (maybe that’s just my family) makes its way back on the Sunday-after-church dinner menu, what significant change and growth has occurred?
Is it just a “I’m good Jesus lover” move, something to cut the guilt? Kinda like calling mom or dad on Mother’s and Father’s Day? You know, where you basically just say hello, have some quick conversation because that’s what a “grateful child“ does and then feign a heavy work load so you can get off the phone or get to back your “real life.” Or is the person truly better for it? I don’t know.
What I do know is given what seems like an onslaught of strife, hate and social injustice swirling around me, I could do with a dose of hope and positive growth on a variety of levels.
So this year for Lent I chose to just meet the eyes of every person who crosses my path and smile. I greet them with a, “hello or g’day…” something kind. I’m not worrying if they don’t respond or they look at me like I’m crazy (could be) or “say blow it out your butt.”
I am practicing intentionally putting “light” in the world and I believe it will brighten my own path. There are days I just want to know anybody cares. There are days when the smallest wisp of kindness changes the trajectory of a crappy week. My belief is at the end of the 40 days of Lent, there will be 40 days more and maybe, just maybe there will be a better me.