What are you giving up for Lent? A phrase Catholics ask each other entirely too often beginning today, Ash Wednesday. When I was a child I would chose an item to abstain from in order to prove I would sacrifice something I loved in the same way that Jesus gave up his life for us. It made sense in my young mind but it was no small task. It took everything I had not to eat candy for the 40 days, which felt like an eternity, until Easter. Would anyone really know if I grabbed some M&M’s when no one was looking? It was an important lesson in sacrifice and integrity.
When I was a child, I was proud to say I would give up candy for my faith. Somehow, a grown woman uttering that same phrase doesn’t hold the same meaning. As an adult, how does self-denial of a vice really prove anything or make the world a better place? When Jesus gave his life for us I doubt he was thinking, ‘for the ultimate sacrifice that I am making, millions of people will give up soda and chocolate for 40 days to thank me.’
Open Bible created a list in 2009 of the top 100 things Twitterers were giving up for Lent – while most were meant to be funny I would venture to say that an honest sampling of the current population would garner similar results.
According to Wikipedia:
“In modern times, observers give up an action of theirs considered to be a vice, add something that is considered to be able to bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations.”
How many of us have donated the time formerly consumed with our vice to charity? Donated money? Anyone?
In an effort to bring meaning back to the 40 days leading up to Easter, the next time someone asks you what you are giving up for Lent say “nothing.” What I am doing, however, is dedicating 2 hours each week to help at a soup kitchen, volunteering time with a non-profit organization I believe is making a difference, or helping with habitat for humanity. What I am doing is showing my children and those around me that the real story of Lent is sacrificing something that will bring someone else joy.
If you want to join in what I am dubbing “Lent a Hand” you can check out this great website, Volunteer Match, that will match you with a volunteer opportunity in your area that fits your needs. So the next time you have an overwhelming desire to ask someone what they are giving up for Lent, instead ask how are you “Lenting a hand?”
In case you still want to give something up for Lent, this BuzzFeed quiz can help you out. It must have known I was going to write this because here was my result…
Let’s start a movement. How will you ‘Lent a Hand’ this year?
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Photo courtesy of Open Bible