Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the season of Lent in the western Christian church. It is a season of inner reflection, doing penance for the wromgs one has done, and fasting, which prepares one for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, by which all Christian believers get the chance for redemption.
Modern Christians will be anointed on the forehead with ashes today. These ashes signify three things: that one should always be humble; that one should emulate the ancient Ninevites, who followed Jacob's advice to repent by doing penance in sackcloth and ashes; and that all will not remain here on earth forever - the human race will someday return to the dust from which it was first created.
As this Lenten season begins today, each and every one of us can engage in sacrifice for a higher purpose. One need not even be a Christian to achieve some good with this. One need not do something monumental, either: each of us, in his or her own way, can engage in this sacrifice for a good cause of our own choosing. Doing so certainly won't break us or kill us. For example, business owners and corporate CEOs could hire one extra employee off of the unemployment rolls, or give existing employees a little unexpected bonus or raise. Employees who are accustomed to engaging in unproductive activities on company time (like internet surfing or shopping) could refrain from doing that for the season so as to quit taking advantage of the boss. Office employees and CEOs alike could agree to donate $1 each per month for the next year or two to support orphans or needy children somewhere. The American Institute of Philanthropy publishes a guide to charities you can trust, and this guide is available for only $3. Just contact them at this address:
American Institute of Philanthropy
P.O. Box 578460
Chicago, IL 60657
Mortgage bankers could give those facing foreclosure 30 to 60 more days grace. In the lunch line, or at the highway toll booth, one could pay the next person's fare as an act of anonymous kindness. Each of us could easily spare some pocket change or even $5 to give to the next homeless person we see on the street. Politicians and pundits alike, such as Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck, could all refrain from telling lies about their opponents for political gain during the next six weeks. Children could step up and do the dishes or other chores out of turn every so often. Oil company executives and Wall Street speculators could refrain from raising gasoline prices every time there's the least little bit of tension reported from the Middle East. Come April 15, just for this year, taxpayers could refrain from taking deductions they aren't really supposed to. Fundamentalist Christians could stop their holier-than-thou attacks on Muslims and gays just long enough to realize Jesus Himself would never approve of their hateful actions.
If all of us take the time and make the effort to find little ways we can each sacrifice, the net result will be something very large and meaningful indeed! I invite readers to suggest other little things which could be done this season to make our world be a better and fairer place for all.
If each of us will only look within ourselves for the next six weeks, we will certainly find our own individual way to improve the world situation and we may help develop some true and lasting peace as a side benefit. There is nothing to lose, and VERY much to gain, by doing these little acts of sacrifice. Let's give it a try, shall we? What are YOUR suggestions, readers?