I have thought about this post several years during Lent, but I have procrastinated to a point well beyond Easter for two reasons. First, I’ve never really touched on religion on this blog. Second, I don’t want to draw undeserved attention to myself. It’s very hard to avoid the second reason when you’re writing a blog about yourself. However, I think that offering this post, at this precise time, will solve both problems.
As for the first problem, this isn’t really a religious post. Yes, it has to do with Lent, but not Lent as in Lent. It has more to do with the practice of fasting during Lent. Fasting doesn’t have to be confined to this time frame; lots of religions fast at different times. Lot of people fast outside of religious times, so we can drop any religious pretense for this post. Now that we have that cleared up, let’s look at the second problem. I think it will become apparent that there is little to be all impressed about me here.
About four years ago, I read an article about Lenten sacrifice. Most people who observe Lent, give something up during the period or fast in some manner. I have made attempts at giving up beer, chocolate, soda (back when I drank soda) and a few other minor addictions – mostly failed attempts. I once tried to give up coffee. At some point early in week two, my wife brought me a cup of coffee and said “drink this!” Apparently, I’m not a good companion when decaffeinated.
Giving up things wasn’t working. The article I was reading suggested alternatives to the whole giving up thing. Several options focused on the idea of adding something to your routine instead of giving something up. One idea was to do the things that others usually do for you. “How hard could that be?” I thought.
This is where you will understand why you don’t need to be impressed, it’s very hard. Since Lent only began a few days ago, I am barely even remembering that I am making the attempt.
Yesterday morning for instance, I started to hand my wife something that I wanted her to put away. She was closer to the cabinet where it belongs. As she reached for it, I remembered. I blurted out “ooh, Lent” pulled it back and put it away myself.
If you don’t think that sounds like much of a sacrifice, you’re right. It isn’t much of a sacrifice. However, as we proceed through Lent, I will notice more and more of these things. Making my own cup of tea, taking my own bowl to the sink, rinsing that bowl, putting my own shoes away, and so on. My experience with this approach has yielded a much greater appreciation for the folks around me.
Unlike giving up chocolate and then glomming down a half-dozen Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs on Easter Sunday, some of the things I add back to my life will endure. It’s not like on Easter Sunday I’m going to pull a Homer Simpson and yell out “honey, beer me!”
Another reason not to be impressed is that I will likely drift back into a pattern of taking advantage of the people around me. I don’t mean for that to sound like I’m taking advantage of people. I’m merely taking advantage of the things people are willing to do. It sounds worse than it is. Really.
At some point during the year, I’ll hand my wife something to put away simply because she’s two feet closer to the cabinet but maybe I won’t do that until June.
One of the things I started doing during Lent a few years ago was to go and see the guy who works with me rather than ask him to come to my office. The very first time I did that, I realized that it was a good thing to do irrespective of Lent. Sometimes, the task at hand is easier to accomplish at his desk. It’s dumb to make him come to my office and work harder at the task just because I have the office.
I have shared this technique (I’m not sure technique’s the right word) with people, mostly when they ask me “so, what did you give up for Lent?” A couple of them have either tried it or asked their children to try it – children doing things others usually do for them…there’s some fertile ground for sacrifice.
If you’re still thinking about doing something for Lent, or if you’re just interested in appreciating the people in your world a little bit better, I would urge you to consider trying this behavior. It doesn’t have to be during Lent. You don’t have to tell people that you’re doing it. It doesn’t have to be for any particular length of time, but, if you’re like me, you won’t really start to ramp up for about two weeks. Also, if you’re anything like me, you will be amazed at how many little things other people are doing for you.