I used to approach Lent with the dread many people reserve for trips to the dentist, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the dandelion patch outside the kitchen door.
I associated Lent with mind-boggling deprivation and withdrawal from favorite treats such as candy, cola, and reality television shows.
While I do plan to give something up this year for Lent — I think it’s a helpful exercise that forces me to go deeper in my spiritual life — I will balance the relinquishing of a favorite comfort with the embrace of a good deed.
My Aunt Mary, who chose the noble profession of baking and decorating wedding cakes, had a simple philosophy of life that brought her — and the people around her — much joy.
Aunt Mary used to say that, each day, we should perform a “gesture” for someone. By this she did not mean a handle signal indicating road rage. No, Aunt Mary’s gestures were acts of kindness.
Baking cookies for her granddaughter-in-law’s kindergarten class. Offering a treasured pearl necklace to a niece facing tough times. Shopping for a simple pick-me-up that would make a friend or relative’s day.
While Aunt Mary liked nice things — her home was tastefully decorated and her closet was immaculate — she did not have a great deal of money. Her gestures were not extravagant, but heartfelt, sincere, and altogether lovely.
My father shared Aunt Mary’s philosophy of living. For him, each day should be marked by a “good deed of the day,” where one goes out of his or her way to do something nice for someone else. It was important to him that the deed be a stretch and that it really came from the heart.
So whether it’s called a gesture or a good deed of the day, an act of kindness will be part of my Lenten diet this year. I’ve found that, when such actions are undertaken enthusiastically and with love, they are sweeter than any box of chocolates. And they can make going into the desert a great deal more bearable, not only for ourselves, but for the lives we touch.
What will you do to make this Lent one of your best ever?
Copyright 2018 Maria V. Gallagher