My mother grew up in the Catholic Church & a portion of my family still attends regular mass. The rest of us are an assortment of Protestant & non-denominational people of faith, but when the Lenten season rolls around each year, we all contemplate it in different ways.
Growing up in a Baptist church we rarely discussed lent outside of the countdown to Easter Sunday. But, my Grammy always shared her Lenten goal with the family. I never really wanted to give something up, but I did want to be like her. So, occasionally I’d announce to friends or my cousin that I was giving up something like my after school snack or watching two shows during the weekly TGIF TV marathon.
As I aged, that passed & while I supported my friends & family who participated in Lent, I didn’t really see why I needed to be part of it. I get the idea of daily sacrifices prompting reflection about gratitude for a greater sacrifice, but I didn’t see a lot of evidence of that taking place around me.
It really just seemed like 40 days of people whining about all the things they couldn’t do, snapping hangrily at colleagues & dozing off in meetings because of a lack of caffeine. People suddenly off sugar are loose cannons.
Then a few years ago, I met someone who took the Lenten challenge of mindful sacrifice & flipped it on its head in a powerfully positive way.
Having coffee with a group of girls one posed the question, “What’s everyone giving up for Lent this year?” & the MOST Catholic one in the bunch shocked us all with her response…”Nothing.”
After our jaws closed she explained.
Rather than give up something that she may or may not stick with when the craving behavior jeopardized the security of her current employment, she had decided to DO something positive every day that she would not normally think to do or make time for. Each time she was intentional about this positive action, she would reflect & celebrate that she had the ability to give because of the way she believed God continuously gives to her.
I’m sure she wasn’t the first to think of this, but it was a radical thought to our little crew.
Leaving coffee that night I thought about the many ways Lent could be a season of positivity & giving for everyone regardless of faith persuasion.
What if we all took the next 40 days & did something intentionally positive every day?
For example, once a day every day for the next 40 days you call someone in your contacts that you haven’t spoken to in a while just to see how they are & let them know you were thinking of them. Wouldn’t that remind us how blessed we are to have those people who have been part of our lives in different seasons & also make their day to have someone reach out?
What if once a day for the next 40 days you went out of your way to do something kind for another person with no thanks or recognition expected? Pick up the recycling that blew out of your neighbor’s bin. Pay it forward at the coffee shop. Leave a note for a co-worker about how you appreciate their teamwork. Clean something that isn’t your responsibility in the house or at the office.
Even something as simple as writing down one thing you are grateful for each day for the next forty days could prompt a shift in your mind & your heart that promote ongoing reflection on how to live out of that gratitude every day.
I still applaud everyone making daily sacrifices in this season as a discipline of their faith, but for anyone looking for or open to an alternative practice with purpose, I challenge you to consider intentional daily positivity.
You could make a big difference in your little part of the world.