Giving It Up For Lent

Posted: February 12, 2008 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Morality, Religion

We are officially one week into Lent, which began on February 6th.

It is the 40 day period immediately before and leading up to Easter – or as some call it "Resurrection Sunday."  

According to the Saint George’s Episcopal Church (Arlington, VA) web site,

"Lent is one of the most important seasons of the church year because it is a time of penitence, an introspective period during which we take stock of our lives and our relationships to discover and change what we must to prepare for Easter and experience the spiritual renewal that comes when we engage in this type of ‘making right’ activity. So, during Lent we each follow the example of Jesus by sacrificing our own will to the purpose of God."

Similar to the Islamic Fast of Ramadan, which according to the Ramadan on the Net web site says that,

"Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. It is during this month that Muslims observe the Fast of Ramadan. Lasting for the entire month, Muslims fast during the daylight hours and in the evening eat small meals and visit with friends and family. It is a time of worship and contemplation. A time to strengthen family and community ties."

The Fun Social Studies web site says this about Hannukah,

"Hanukkah is also known as the festival of lights. It is the story of standing up for what you believe in. It reminds us not to remain silent in the face of oppression, and not to surrender our rights and identities."

… and gives a link to the website, that contains a page called "Jewish Values" which says under the section, "The Inter-personal Commandments in Jewish Thought,"

"The Torah is an instruction manual for life, it is a guide of how to have good relationships with others and to be moral and kind people. The Torah’s commandments are the means through which we can apply these values to our lives and thereby create a society with more happiness and harmony."

Despite the differences between these three major religions, I find it interesting that they all share one common similarity: moral obligation to others. This moral obligation requires that they reach out to others less fortunate than themselves in love and compassion. Yet, I wonder how just how often followers of these religions actually practice that obligation.

Tonight, all throughout the various communities of this nation, there are millions of people who have no place to call home. Hundreds of thousands of them will be forced to sleep out of doors under bushes, behind buildings, in vacant alleyways or anywhere else they might find. There just aren’t enough shelter beds available for all of them.

Some will be men of all ages. Some will be woman – again of all ages. Some of them will even be children. They will come from all walks of life; every political and religious affiliations. Some of them will have had nothing to eat today – and even perhaps yesterday. Some of them will have eaten food that has been discarded in garbage cans.

Sadly, some of them may not live through till morning. They will be nameless and forgotten. Just another John or Jane Doe.

We see them, day after day, struggling with bent backs under the weight of their backpacks, which are stuffed full with all of their worldly possessions. We might see them standing on a corner holding a sign. Or we might see them sitting on the ground outside of a filling station or convenience store asking for spare change. We may even see them digging through trash cans and dumpsters looking for plastic bottles and aluminum cans to take to the recycling centers. And, all in an attempt to put a few dollars in the pockets.

Yes, there are many homeless whose sole goal in life is to be in a drunken stupor, or to be high. And, yes, there are those homeless who are just too plain lazy to do anything constructive or positive with their lives. There are even those who have deliberately chosen a life of homelessness; who want nothing more than to live off of society. But there are many, who despite their all of their attempts, are unable to find gainful employment; are unable to raise their standards of living.

Perhaps part of the fault is our own as a society. We’ve become morally numb to the needs of our nations homeless. We’ve grown so accustomed to seeing the homeless that we often times don’t really see them – they are just part of the landscape of billboards and street lights. We’ve taught ourselves to ignore their presence unless their presence directly affects us personally.

What is worse; we’ve allowed ourselves to remain ignorant of who homelessness can afflict. We stubbornly cling to our misconceptions and false ideas. We resist any data or information that may contradict what we think about homelessness. We will believe that we’re making headway at reducing the numbers of homeless within our communities – even when there is evidence to the contrary.

And all the while, we adhere to our religious beliefs. We attend religious services and gatherings at our churches, mosques and synagogues. We listen to our religious leaders as the speak to us about morality and goodness. We sit there and agree that, yes, that’s how we should live our lives. Yet, once we’ve exited the building, we leave behind those tenets that we know we should be trying to emulate. With the first homeless person we see, the old prejudices come back into play.

Isn’t it time we started practicing what we preach? Isn’t it time we took all of our religious beliefs to heart and started living up to our moral obligations to those less fortunate than ourselves? Isn’t it time we put our prejudice toward our nations’ homeless behind us and started do something to really make a difference.

It brings to mind the phrase:

"Practice makes perfect"

This is actually the perfect time for that. We could take all of the prejudices we have toward the homeless and give them up for Lent.

  1. Ruthie Rader says:

    I made my friend, who has helped me here, a valentine yesterday and emailed it to her.

    I made her a valentine in such a way as to not have to be concerned about the stupid e-card virus running around right now.

    She emailed me back right after she opened it.

    I made her happy.

    She sent me back a smiley face.

    Here’s yours:

    :) and a hug {HUG} and a :* MWAH!

    Thank you for your excellent post. You rock!

  2. Jose says:

    Michael, you continue to blow me away with your compassion, insight and talent with communication and power of the word.
    I along with many other members of our cyber community get more from reading your posts than from our published newspapers and television news programs.
    Keep up the great work my friend.
    There is something fantastic in store for you just around the corner.

    Stay healthy


  3. AnAmerican says:

    We are a society that quite enjoys placing boundaries and divisions amongst us…religion should be the glue that ties us all together during our time in life. As you point out the tenets of all major religions calls upon each of us to extend kindness and love to others. Sadly, humans have manipulated religion for centuries to fit our own needs.
    It has been heartwarming to see many of the churches in my community recognize the need for helping the homeless and have funded additional shelter and food for those in need. Those who help the homeless in these shelters find the experience of helping others in need far more meaningful than any sermon could ever be. We should never underestimate the simplest act of benevolence to another.
    Thank you for this reminder of how important it is to be true to the core of my faith!
    Great to to have you back and spreading your thoughts!

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