Generosity: Day 41

Lent is one of the true 4o day challenges. It seems most fitting that I begin my second 40 days of my 100 Day Challenge at the start of Lent. While many people focus on the “abstinence” focus of the penitence that is required during the season of Lent, abstinence is not the only penitentiary form. Lent seems ready made for Mimimalism.

I can easily imagine someone “giving up” a object each day during Lent in a sort of purge. After 40 days, if I “gave up” a clothing item, would I make any sort of dent in my wardrobe? How is that different from “giving up” sugar, for example? I have heard people say that they pick something to “give up” that they will really “feel” by being reminded all through the day that they are curbing their behavior. But, for those of us who have counted every calorie we eat for years on end, food is not the best tool for mindfulness.

For several years I tried the “adding up” approach and worked during Lent to completely memorize a poem that I found deeply meaningful. The Gerard Manley Hopkins poem As Kingfishers Catch Fire is one of these, the year previously I worked on this poem by John Dunne.

But I have already added and given up so many things in my 100 Day Challenge, I am not sure that this part of the penitence will resonate this year. Even the prayer aspect of the Lenten penitence isn’t ringing a new bell. I haven’t written about it in the blog yet, but my family has added a specific set of prayers over our breakfast as part of this special time. So finally, we arrive at the third pillar of the Lenten season, which is charity. This is not something I have encorporated into my work to change my life, so this should be where I focus.

I am reminded of a book I read on generosity, so long ago I am not sure I will be able to find it. Written by a Rabbi, looking for the book just now led me to consider how perfect a focus on generosity will be for this 40 day stretch. All I remember now of the book is that after reading it, I was struck by the suggestion that a way to cultivate generosity was to practice giving to anyone who asked you for money. The Rabbi suggested writing a $5 blank check and mailing it back to the next letter asking for money or keeping dollar bills and giving them to anyone who asked, without going through the ungenerous calculation of how much the asker really needed the money. For a while, we adapted this suggestion by buying two rolls of dollar coins and giving them to anyone who asked for money. The coins were distinctive and reminded us of the need to be generous, without the less than completely altruistic attempt to affiliate with a “good cause” through the generosity.

This could work. I will let you know.

I believe now that my lateness in writing for the past two days is because I am ill. I am usually such a chipper, morning person who wakes with plenty to say and the fever this morning let me know that something is, in fact, wrong. Rosehip tea might help.

Luckily I can paint in bed.

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