Lent, for many of us Christians, is a time of giving up something that you can’t seem to go without, or a time to truly change one’s ways, maybe giving up negativity and focusing on the positive in life. Maybe, if we can manage forty days of a positive change in our lives, we could hold onto this turn-around attitude, and make it part of our new lifestyle.
The forty days of Lent, and how it is observed, is a personal choice for each individual. It is a choice that each person gives serious consideration to, as to what will be their sacrifice. Will it be giving up something, or adding a task that may be difficult, but somewhat of a personal improvement plan. Many brave souls may attempt both, sacrifice and personal improvement.
Fast-forward a bit, and we as a nation are introduced to COVID-19. The virus was out there, circling around in the global news, all the while creeping closer and closer; however, it couldn’t happen to us, could it? Well, it seems as though the entire world has been thrown into a form of Lent. A very big Lent. Sacrifice. Do better. Help others. Be patient. Practice self-control. Be a better version of yourself.
This era of pandemic is something that my generation, as well as some ahead of me and some behind, has never experienced. I’ve heard the stories of the Great Depression from my grandparents, and saw from their behavior, that they learned to value what they had, rather than waste and take for granted that there would always be more. Let’s face it, this repurposing gig didn’t just recently become the new chic way of living; being resourceful goes way back to another era, and it was the result of another catastrophic time.
9/11 has come to my mind a great deal, lately. I remember the same feeling of disbelief about 9/11, as I initially felt about this current problem, regarding COVID-19. “No, this can’t be happening, the government will get a handle on this; we’re the USA, for crying out loud!” “That plane must have accidently crashed into the Tower.” “This virus can be silenced!” No and No. The correlation that I see with 9/11 and COVID-19 is the manner in which people are behaving, at least what I am seeing, currently; however, I wonder how long it will hold.
There’s a level of kindness and compassion that is not regularly exhibited. Don’t misunderstand, I know some folks that are kind and compassionate all of the time, and I work to emulate their behavior more and more every day. If you are lucky enough to work with such individuals on a regular basis, work to pass onto the world, the good that you experience every day. Hopefully, you will be a positive example that others will mimic to the world; a positive ripple-effect, so to speak.
A few days after 9/11, I was walking down the main street of the university town that I lived in, at the time. A young man, that seemed to be college age was approaching me, and when we were to pass one another on the sidewalk, he stopped. His stopping caused me to stop, as we were the only two on that stretch of the sidewalk. It was unusual to just stop, especially when people were always in a hurry to get to and from the next objective in life; however, this day was different. The disaster of 9/11 and all of its collateral damage caused a pause in the way of the world. Maybe those objectives in life that we all rushed to and from had changed, as had the landscape and feel of our country.
As the young man and I both came to a halt, he spoke these five simple words….”How are you doing, today?” As I stood there, shocked and impressed with his genuine kindness, tears welled in my eyes, and I said, “I think I’m ok, how about you?” We gave our brief, yet caring responses to each other, wished each other good days, ahead, and moved on. Those five simple words changed the way that I felt about our world. There was hope. I was reminded that people are genuinely kind and good-natured. That encounter was close to 19 years ago, and I still remember it well, and I’m grateful for that young man.
I’m glad that I can’t remember how many years it took for the world to become rush, rush, rush, again, but it did. That feeling after 9/11 when people seemed to genuinely care how you were doing; people took more time to genuinely listen; our nation got set on its rear-end, and it caused people to realign their thinking, to a kinder way. Then, after (you fill in the blank) years, we were back to the hurried pace of our world.
I see this now, as my husband and I walk at a park, social distancing, of course. There’s a feeling in the air, even if it’s not said with words, it’s said with a smile and eye contact… “How are you doing, today?”
With the many catastrophic events that our nation and our world have experienced, we are called to be better people; we are called to be good stewards of this planet; we are called to sacrifice. All in all, we are called to participate in a different type of Lent. This is not the type that you choose to participate in, this is the type that requires everyone’s involvement.
These times cause me to reflect on the Bible, more than I regularly do. There’s a nudge to think of Holy Week: The Last Supper, the Crucifixion of Christ, and His resurrection, which no one anticipated. All in all, an extremely intense and grueling period of time. The uncertainty of this COVID-19 is like an extremely long Holy Week. We need to trust that there will be a light at the end of this intense struggle.
We will have learned, we will have sacrificed, and we will have been made stronger. My hope is that we will also become kinder, in a more permanent way. One in which we won’t need another catastrophe to be reminded to ask a stranger, “How are you doing, today?”