Growing up Catholic, Lent was a very big deal in our house. It started with ash on the forehead, continued with meatless Fridays, and came to a conclusion with Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter, 40 days later (not counting Sundays). For those of you not familiar with Lent, it is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations. During Lent, many Christians the world over observe fasting, do acts of penance, practice moderation and keep spiritual discipline. (Read more about Lent in this article from the International Business Times or via Wikipedia.)
As a child, my parents did not ask us to specifically give up anything other than the traditional “no-meat Fridays” and to spend what seemed like an inordinate amount of time at church. I was not a practitioner of spiritual discipline at that time, nor did I fast or practice moderation. At least I don’t remember those pieces of Lent.
What I do remember is loving meatless Fridays. I loved my mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese (never out of a blue box) and potato pancakes. That was better than any meat dish they would have otherwise served at the end of the week. I yearn for both on the first day of Lent.
Funny story: Mom always served her potato pancakes (grated potatoes, grated onion, egg, salt, pepper, cast iron skillet, an inch of oil) with thawed frozen strawberries. Never with applesauce or syrup. The strawberries were sugary sweet goodness on top of salty potatoes…doesn’t get any better than that. Yum. Imagine my surprise, however, when I first ordered potato pancakes in a restaurant and had them served with an applesauce-filled paper cup. I looked at the paper cup, thought “huh?” and asked mom about the location of the strawberries. Mom told me that’s how potato pancakes are normally served (apparently, we were not a normal family) and I immediately felt the same stinging deflation as the day I discovered Santa Claus was not real.
And now, back to Lent and the title of this post.
For many Christians, Lent brings the penitence of giving up something near and dear to their hearts. Many give up food and/or drink – chocolate, sugar, pizza, alcohol, coffee, etc. (I gave up chocolate for six weeks a few years ago. It was tough. I almost died.) Others may give up pieces of social media, like Facebook or Twitter. How about 40 days without television? Without swearing? Without sex? Without blogging? You name it, it’s being given up by millions as I type this post.
This Lent, I am giving up gummy bears, but I am also adding in.
What is “adding in?” you may ask. I will tell you.
A Facebook friend had this idea last year. Instead of giving up something for six weeks that we eventually go back to, why not add in something good to our life? Something that could become a lifelong habit, or bring a change of disposition? Need examples? I will give you a few:
- Add in volunteer hours – at the soup kitchen or food pantry
- Add in a walk for 30 minutes every day
- Add in a healthy vegetable to your dinner plate
- Add in positive encouragement to a friend every day
- Add in telling a joke to your co-workers, just to make them smile
- Add in mercy for your fellow human being when they are having a bad day
- Add in silent meditation for 5 minutes every day
- Add in a daily thanks to Mother Nature, regardless of the weather
- Add in a daily thanks to your higher power for waking up
Add-in. Easier than giving up coffee and chocolate, it’s beneficial to the soul, a penance of kindness, a silent whisper of love and grace.
Of course, you can give up something for Lent, especially if your gummy bear habit or cursing is out of control. But beyond the 40 days of Lent, Christian or not, “adding in” can be a journey of health and happiness to your spiritual well-being. You can add in any time of the day, any day of the year.
And so, dear readers, I ask you…
What would you “add in” to your life today or in the coming weeks?
(Adding in a second Easter basket for yourself doesn’t count.) :-p