Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Western Christian holy period leading up to Easter Sunday. It's a time of giving up but can also be a time of giving. One of the pluses of this austere time is that our sacrifices can turn into habits that we can take with us through the year.
Volunteering is never really a Lenten idea yet is is a sacrifice of one's time. Many soup kitchens are understaffed at this time because volunteers usually drift away. Our local media never emphasizes this as they do around the Thanksgiving and Christmas when more people feel compelled to help out. To get rid of the mid winter doldrums join your local kitchen and hang out if you have the time. Get to know the regulars and listen to their stories.Buy them a coffee if you see them on the street, help them in whatever journey they're on. Another idea is baking for these kitchens . Have the offspring help so they can get an idea of what public service is.They can make brownies or cookies and bring them over to the kids (and there are many) that also frequent the kitchens.Smaller soup kitchen sometimes have parties so donate either food or drinks or even bake a cake or cupcakes to bring over as well as assisting setting up and cleaning up afterwards. Also donating seeds and gardening tools to community gardens are a huge help as well along with offering gardening advice. Right now many grocery stores are starting to sell seeds. Pick up a few packets, such as lettuce, peas and squash to help them start.
Of course Lent means giving up the foods and drinks we love Many give up sweets such as cake or candy for these forty days. The good thing about giving up foods is that you lose your taste for them. These sweets can be replaced with healthier fruits for a burst of sweetness. After a while it's easier to reach for a handful of dark , flavorful grapes than cookies. It's also better for the body as well as for the soul, as we all know. You'll feel springier after nixing the gluten and refined flours and replacing it with vitamins and fiber too. Many , especially the Greek Orthodox give up meats for Lenten fasting. There are so many bonuses win doing this. You'll lose weight as well as not ingesting all those harmful antibiotics and hormones that are still being injected into farm animals. It's also a good deed , with saving animal's lives. Fasters will also enjoy broadening their diets by include all sorts of pastas and vegetable dishes. They'll discover the variety of different faux meats from Morningstar Farms and Gardien brands. Remember though , that if you give up meat you need to supplant it with protein. This is where peanut butter or any nut along with green peas and edamame give you that punch of it. Even unsweetened cocoa powder which can be made into the Mexican mole sauce has huge quantities of it.
Ash Wednesday is a time to start giving up whether time or favorite foods. It's a time of soul searching and wondering what you can do to make life better for yourself and your community. It's fasting but also also pondering too.