I am blessed to have a relatively privileged and easy life. I am not financially wealthy, but I have everything I need and most of what I want. I have a happy child, healthy body, family and friends who love me, a rent-free living situation, a pantry overflowing with food, some cute clothes that used to fit me before I stopped breastfeeding, a paid-for and reliable vehicle, a laptop, a smartphone, and cable television.
My biggest complaints are that my pedicure is chipped, my data plan rarely works outside the house, and that I have to wait until Sunday to watch my favorite trashy TV shows online because I no longer have a DVR. That’s about it.
A spoiled brat, I may be. But believe it or not, I often contemplate ways in which I can help people whose disadvantages I probably will never understand fully. People who have never received or been able to afford to give a present. People who don’t know where their next meal will come from. People who must sleep outside in the pouring rain, freezing snow, or scorching heat. People who are living with or dying of painful terminal illnesses. Orphans, survivors of natural disasters, elderly people with no family, the list goes on.
I have recently become fascinated by people who fast for others – why they do it, how they do it, what purpose it serves. And what better time to explore that concept than Lent? I intended to have read the books 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by now, so that I could go into these next 40 days with a meaningful and detailed plan. Unfortunately, my local public library still hasn’t received them from the special order I asked them to make.
So for now, I’m winging it. The following are my plans for Lent 2012:
- Upon waking each day, list (on paper!) five things for which I am thankful. I say “upon waking” because if I focus on these things first thing in the morning, doing so will have a positive effect on my attitude for the remainder of the day. By Easter morning, I should have a list of 200 different reasons to stop feeling overwhelmed, to abstain from complaining, and to be grateful to God.
- Research 40 (one per day) different documented fasting experiences, and pray accordingly. By the time Lent is over, I should have a better understanding of the practice and purpose of fasting.
- Research 40 (one per day) nonprofit or charitable organizations, and pray accordingly. By Easter Sunday, I should have a good feel for which organization, or at least which type of cause, I most want to support and in which ways (financially, volunteer work, etc.). I’ll also be one step closer to achieving one of my outreach goals for this year.
- Create a Swear Jar, and contribute 25 cents per profane four-letter outburst. Hey, I’m not rich, and I can curse like a sailor. The idea here is to clean up my language and my thoughts. After Easter, I will contact my chosen organization (see #3 above), and make my initial contribution.
- Choose one of my favorite items from within my stockpile each day, and donate it to a local homeless shelter or food bank. I am almost as proud of and obsessed with my fledgling stockpile as I am my sweet baby boy. Even though I consider my stockpile to be a frugal supplement to providing for my family, I can see how more underprivileged people than I might call it “excessive.” I will put the item aside each day, and then make one big donation of those 40 items at the end of Lent.
My hope is that accomplishing these goals will foster some much needed spiritual and personal development. Each time I read over them, I worry that I have not included enough sacrifice, which I interpret to be the main reason for celebrating Lent. I intentionally avoided doing things like giving up soft drinks or chocolate because no one would benefit from those practices except for me. I just hope that my research over the next 40 days gives me the courage to fast productively and effectively in the future.
I’d love to hear about others’ plans for Lent and/or experiences with fasting. Please feel free to leave a comment with any feedback that you feel may be helpful. Thanks!