One year, I gave up coffee for Lent.
It was a long 40 days and Easter morning I had no interest in chocolate eggs, the Easter Bunny brought me a coffee in bed – smart Easter Bunny.
That’s when I realized my giving up coffee might not have been a very charitable act in the eyes of my family or my coworkers.
As someone who was raised in a Christian family and is still active in a faith community, Lent has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve learned a lot from Lent. In fact, I think it’s worth considering taking part in some of the traditional practices of Lent even if organized religion is not your thing.
Lent is a time of fasting, alms-giving and prayer. And that can take many forms. We tend to think of fasting as “giving up” something, usually chocolate or alcohol or if you really want to suffer, coffee. The whole idea is, it should give you a sense of what it’s like to go without, to sacrifice. In a world where so many go hungry or homeless it can help us remember how fortunate we are, and that’s a valuable lesson.
The year I gave up coffee I took the money I saved and gave it to a soup kitchen at Easter. It was amazing how quickly it added up. Mind you, I think my donation was larger the year I gave up wine for 40 days. However when I think back, I learned to be charitable when I was a child. We had a cardboard folder with little slots for saving dimes. The dimes you saved by not eating candy went in the folder. It was tough. But when we handed in our folders and were told that our money would make it possible for little girls in Africa to go to school, it felt amazing. I can still see those folding dime holders in my mind, they taught me a lot about charity.
One year for Lent, I pledged to write a letter a day for 40 days, and I did! I wrote friends and family and people I hadn’t been in touch with for a long time. They were letters that told them why they mattered to me and why I admired them. It also meant I spent half an hour every day away from the hustle and bustle of my busy life and quietly remembered someone special to me. I know I was as blessed by writing those letters as I hope my friends and family were by receiving them.
In the end, I think there is value for everyone in learning the lessons of Lent. It helps one appreciate the joy of Spring and, you feel you’ve earned those Easter eggs.
Jo-Ann Roberts is an award-winning, veteran journalist who is host of CBC Radio’s All Points West, 3-6 pm weekday afternoons, 90.5 fm.