DALTON >> "What are you giving up for Lent?" was a popular question among St. Charles' Grammar School students in the 1950s. Gum, candy, and movies were the most frequent responses. From the day we were marked with a cross of ashes until Easter morning, most of us were successful in our sacrifices.
I've always had a sweet tooth so giving up chocolate was a great sacrifice for me. On Easter morning I was so happy to see that chocolate-filled basket that I would have liked nothing better than to sit on the floor and eat every single piece. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed (not mine).
As we passed through the grades, we learned another way to sacrifice — to do something extra, something we wouldn't ordinarily do. It could be wiping the dishes without being asked or helping a neighbor. Perhaps it involved donating money to a charity, or getting together with friends to raise money for a good cause. I remember having a bake sale once in the Newberry's store so we could make a donation to Dr. Tom Dooley's medical missions (much like Doctors Without Borders today).
One year I decided to go to daily Mass during Lent. It was dark when I crawled out of my warm bed to dress and walk the half mile to church for the 7 a.m. service. Then back home, eat breakfast, and make the return trip to school for 9 o'clock. I felt very grown up making the solo trek to Mass each day, and I was surprised by the number of parishioners who gathered each morning when they could have been somewhere else.
Getting out and doing something, especially something outside one's comfort zone, brings many rewards, chiefly the sense of accomplishment. It also brings the knowledge that there is much more to do and many ways to be useful in the community.
While it is certainly true that people make sacrifices all year long, I think Lent is a good time to be mindful of what we can choose to do (or not do) for ourselves and for the greater good. The dark days of winter are a great time to reflect on our lives: our faults and failings, our wants and needs, and what we can do to build up our families and communities. The concept of mindfulness is quite popular now, and I like the idea that we should pay more attention to what we are doing and saying. It's so easy to get on the treadmill of life each morning and climb off each night without thinking about what goes on during those waking hours.
We all have a finite number of days in which to accomplish our goals, but we don't know what that magic number is. Maybe we should all try to do one extra thing each day to improve our lives or the lives of others. If you like the "bucket list" concept, plan to do more of those things sooner. Then help family and friends achieve their goals.
Thanks to mass media and social media, there is no shortage of inspiration for us in setting our goals. I love the story about the little girl who was disfigured by a fire who wished for Christmas cards for her little tree. She got so much more. People were so moved by her plight that they filled a warehouse full of cards and gifts. Now all she wants to do is share what she has.
Many of us have some kind of disfigurement or hurt or fear or need; but it is often hidden. Now is a great time to see what we can do to help those who are hurting. Sacrificing a little can help a lot.