The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence. (Wikipedia)
Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days, in commemoration of the forty days which, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by the Devil. However, different Christian denominations calculate the forty days of Lent differently. In most Western traditions the Sundays are not counted as part of Lent since Sundays are always the weekly anniversary of the Resurrection and exempt from fasting or abstinance from meat; thus the period from Ash Wednesday until Easter consists of 40 days when the Sundays are excluded. (Wikipedia)
You may follow the link to Wikipedia to read further on what Lent is.
This year, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, 05 March 2014. Earlier, I read the 2014 Lenten message from His Holiness, Pope Francis 1, in order to start preparing myself for Lent. Soon, I have to decide what will I give up for lent this year as part of penance.
What caught my attention in the Pope’s message is his emphasis on almsgiving. It caught my attention because I know that my record on charity work is non-existent. I do not even give coins to the beggars at traffic intersections. I believe that those who qualify should be getting a grant from Social Development instead of begging at traffic intersections.
I think this Lent will be an opportunity for me to start giving to the needy and perhaps encourage readers of this blog to do the same.
I intend to give away some of the old furniture and clothing items that are in my house. Although on a scale of altruism to disposal, this seems more like disposal, I think it is better than putting some of the staff on gumtree or OLX.
I encourage readers of this blog to give to the needy over the next weeks (and perhaps any other time when they can). The majority of readers of this blog do not have many possessions but I am some do have stuff they no longer have use for. They could be holding on to some of it for sentimental reasons. I think there is greater sentimental value in knowing you gave it away to a person who has more use for it than you are. Go ahead and give away those things.
As an example, I know a friend who is running campaign of collecting conference/event bags. He collects them and give them to school kids who carry books with plastic bags. I know, from experience, the inclination, for sentimental reasons, to keep bags that a given away for free to delegates at conferences. That bag is better off replacing a school kids plastic bag than it gathering dust somewhere in your habitat. Go ahead a contact my friend on Facebook or Twitter.
I am sure that you have much more to give than bags. Go ahead and make someones day. Give.
I have another idea of giving that I have not worked out exactly how to effectively put to practice. Panarottis, a pizza and pasta restaurant, runs a Sunday Special where kids under 12 years eat for free on Sundays. However, the catch is that each adult who will pay for her food can bring a maximum of two kids. This means to bring two paying adults can bring 4 kids, three paying adults can bring 6 kids and so on and so forth. Before reading the fine print, I had thought I would organise a whole taxi of kids from a care centre to go there on a Sunday. I am yet to figure out how I can take advantage of this special for the benefit of a child who ordinarily would not have had an opportunity.
I know this reference to the pizza special may come across as trivial. I grew up at Ingwavuma and only met the pizza for the first time around 1998 when I went to a Technikon in Durban. In this context, in relative terms, it may mean the world to an underprivileged person to dine at Panarottis. Obviously, as the ANC has improved the country and grew the middle class, perhaps pizza has become a staple household food and no longer a luxury that I imagine it to be.
This type of giving might also not pass the altruism test as it technically not exactly giving anything. It is just having a meal in the company of someone two kids whose meals you will not pay for. In any case, none of the kids meals costs more than R40 at Panarottis. So it might be more optimal to give a kid or their parent R40 than to spend more transporting them to and from Panarottis for a free R40 meal. As I said, I am yet to figure out if I can use this. But I thought putting it out here might give someone else an idea on how to optimise it.
I think practical ideas that are less time consuming have a better chance of being implemented than noble ideas like building a house which will need more effort and time to try to implement with varying possibilities of success. I am interested in more ideas of what else could I, or anyone else, do during lent to give or help the poor. Please share your suggestions on the comment section. As you can see from my bad ideas on this, one person’s bad idea is another’s good idea.
Good Catholics and good protestants, remember to go to church on Wednesday, if not for yourself at least for your kids, if you have any. I trust that you will use this opportunity to refresh your relationship with deity.