Every year, thousands celebrate Mardi Gras on the streets and in the bars of New Orleans. The next day, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of Lent for Christians around the world.
In my childhood, these two days were a little confusing – I get cake and parades on Tuesday, and then have to fast and go to mass on Wednesday? Lent always meant giving something up, as if punishing ourselves. That doesn’t make any sense when you’re six years old. As an adult, it seems to fit much better – a day of indulgence followed by a day (or several) of recovery, with time to reflect.
As an adult, my Lenten sacrifices aren’t actually sacrifices at all. Instead, I aim to improve myself and my community through conscious, deliberate (but often small) changes. And, thanks to Catholic guilt, I take Lenten resolutions far more seriously than those made at the start of a new year or any other time. For the next six weeks, I will do at least one good deed each day. This morning, for instance, I helped an elderly man onto the bus over a snow bank. It’s small, but it seemed to make his day. And, in turn, maybe he’ll make someone else’s.
As for improving myself, I’m focusing on my diet and aiming to eat the recommended two cups per day of fruit and veggies.
It’s not much, but it’s what I can do to improve my total health.