In elementary school, my St. Mary’s classmates and I prepared ahead of time to answer the notorious, pre-Lenten question, “What are you giving up for Lent?” My friends’ answers paled in comparison to mine. “Candy.” “My bicycle.” “Ice cream.” “Bonanza.” Naturally, no one was crazy enough to say “Nothing”… especially when the nuns had us stand beside our desk and share our answers. It was a spiritual opportunity to one-up each other.
Probably because of jealousy, my noble sacrifice never received the acclamations it deserved, even though mine really, truly eclipsed everyone else’s. I would give up, for 57,600 LONG minutes, my absolute favorite snack, a snack I pined for all day long, a snack that could keep me satisfied for an entire evening, a snack upon which I was dependent for happiness—salt on ice cubes. Had my classmates starved for 40 days, their sacrifice wouldn’t have come close to mine. They, unlike me, had no idea what withdrawals were all about.
With a glass full of ice in one hand and the salt shaker in the other, I could sit for hours licking away. And refills, well, they cost me nothing.
I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
The first year I proudly broadcast my answer in class, Sister looked at me like I was a wack-a- doodle, told me this wasn’t a joke and had me sit down. (Seriously! Even I had limits as to how much I would lie. I mean, who’s going to be stupid enough to fib when grace points were involved?) Sister had no idea what discipline it took to pretend to be holy.
For the entire Lenten season, it was all I could do not to sneak an ice cube. It was simple. Remove the ice tray from the freezer. Pull the silver lever to loosen the cubes. Grab a sliver that fell to the linoleum floor. Add a couple of salt granules, and voila, I would be in Heaven.
Figuratively speaking, I mean. Literally, not so much.
After all, violating a sacred Lenten oath was serious stuff. And since I feared Hell for a number of other sins I recurrently committed, adding this biggie just might do me in.
Now that I’m older and have turned my addiction to potato chips instead of ice cubes, I see great merit in this 40-day sacrifice. But maybe there is something more that could be done, like the suggestions I received in an email recommending other ways to fast during Lent.
- Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
- Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
- Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
- Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
- Fast from worries and have trust in God.
- Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
- Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
- Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
- Fast from selfishness and be compassionate with others.
- Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
- Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.
Serious stuff, don’t you think? Of course, this should be a life list, not a 40-day one.
I have to think salted ice cubes or potato chips would be a whole lot easier.