For some of you, Easter is a holiday just like any other – you spend some time with family, eat some food, and maybe get a day off work.
But for others, Easter is the culmination of a lot of preparation thanks to Lent.
If you’ve never really understood Lent, here is a quick breakdown:
What is Lent?
Lent is a season of 40 days (minus Sundays) practiced by many Christians prior to Easter. The 40 days represent the time that Jesus spent in the desert resisting the temptations of the devil in order to prepare himself for his ministry.
Often times, Christians choose a “Lenten resolution” to help them prepare spiritually for Easter. These resolutions are meant to mirror the struggles that Jesus went through.
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Hang on, hang on! Don’t get scared off by all this religion talk! While Lent is technically a Christian thing, absolutely anybody can participate so stick with me.
Lent has always been a big deal for me. I was raised Catholic and even attended a Catholic grade school. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been making Lenten resolutions and trust me, they have run the gamut. When I was a kid I would always attempt to give up fighting with my brother (yeah, right) or lying (also a failure). In high school I started giving up snacking or sweets and basically thought of Lent as a crash diet. As you may have guessed, that’s totally not the point.
A better kind of Lenten resolution
In college I finally started wising up: Lent isn’t about losing weight or doing anything to improve yourself. Sure, a lot of people choose resolutions that require sacrificing something that may end up in weight loss but that shouldn’t be the main goal.
Rather, I’ve decided that Lent works better for me when I add something instead of taking something away. And while I’m obviously a little biased about this view of Lent, I think the world could benefit in a huge way if more people used their Lenten resolutions to create good.
If you’re still riding my crazy thought train, here’s the point I’m trying to get across: anybody can participate in Lent regardless of religious beliefs and use their resolution to be the good in the world. Boom. Easy.
Here are some ideas you might want to try:
Donate to charity
For obvious reasons, this can make the world a better place. Maybe for Lent this year, you’ll vow to donate to charity once a week or once per paycheck. You can donate to the same charity multiple times or pick a few, write them down, and draw them out of a hat each time you’re going to make a donation. Check with your employer too – at my job, we can designate a certain percentage of our paycheck to automatically be donated before it ever even hits our bank account. Pretty cool!
Produce no waste
A couple weeks ago I watched this video on Buzzfeed about a woman who lived completely waste-free for 30 days. If you check out the video, you’ll see that living waste-free is extremely difficult due to things that we don’t even think about, such as packaging on our food. To make it easier on yourself, you could choose just one area of your life that you’re willing to make waste-free. Maybe your Lenten resolution is to finally remember your reusable grocery bags and start using them faithfully instead of letting them gather dust in the backseat of your car. You could also vow to only use a reusable water bottle (like this awesome Vapur Element Bottle – Water 1-Liter, (34oz) that I literally never leave home without) and not consume any bottled water. I’m sure there are lots of other areas you could cut back waste as well and Mother Earth (plus future generations) will thank you for it.
Learn a new language
Ok, I admit, right off the bat this one doesn’t sound very world-changing. But in my humble opinion, it could be! I have this crazy notion that if everyone had the opportunity to see the world and learn about other cultures, the world would be a whole lot better off. There is just something about living a piece of someone else’s experience that opens your mind. And while not everyone can afford the time or money for travel, everybody can take some time to learn a new language! It’s a baby step in the right direction. And there is nothing cooler than hearing a foreign language in a public place, recognizing it, and maybe even having a small-talk conversation with them in their own language. I would recommend Duolingo to get started on learning a new language.
Give up animal products
I read an article from Huffington Post that reported that meat eaters’ carbon footprint was twice as large as that of vegans. If you’ve been on the fence about going veggie for a while, maybe Lent is a good time to dip your toe in the water and see if you like it. 40 days is definitely enough time to get a good grip on the habits and you’re literally cutting your carbon footprint in half which, hello, is fantastic news for the earth/world.
Walk more, bike more, drive less
Another fairly obvious one but one that we often choose to ignore (or is that just me?). For example, there is a gas station a mile up the road from my house. Almost every night, I drive up to the gas station to grab a soda or a snack and I could totally be biking that distance. Shoot, I could even walk! Americans are notorious for driving absolutely everywhere since our public transportation is usually pretty crappy but we have basically no excuses for not choosing to walk or bike. So if you’re feeling energetic, stop with the excuses and get pedaling/walking!
If you don’t want to commit to one specific Lenten resolution, try doing a different good deed every day. Maybe one day you’ll pay for the person behind you in line at Starbucks. Tthe next you’ll deliver homemade muffins to the local fire station. There are people all around who need a word of encouragement and you never know when you can totally make someone’s day. 40 good deeds would certainly not be a wasted effort!
While, yes, Lent is a religious season, please don’t be scared away if you’re not religious! Lent can be a great time for anybody to make a difference in the world. That’s an opportunity we should all jump on.
Are you going to make a Lenten resolution this year? What will it be? Pop it in the comments below and let’s steal each other’s ideas 😉