Holy Week Musings

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We’re in the middle of Holy Week. Lent is wrapping up and soon it will be Easter and I can enjoy my chocolate and wine without guilt.

I have not made this a very Holy Lent. I usually TRY to be reflective. I usually focus on the season and what it means (with various degrees of success). This year…well I’m just not “feeling” it. I’ve been going through the motions. I haven’t focused on the season; I’ve just gone through it.

It probably has something to do with the fact that I’m feeling the loss much more this Easter than I have for other holidays; my parents have passed and my son will not be coming home for the holiday. My father was always one to buy me a chocolate bunny for Easter; it was a given. Last year when he was not well enough to even do so online, I bought him chocolate bunny ears in the rehabilitation facility that he was in at the time. (I’m not sure if they ever got eaten.) And this past Monday I attended a service where we sang “Were You There” and I was taken back to the early 2000s when I would go to a noon-time service with my mom on Good Friday and that was the only hymn that was sung. I cried a little; just because.

As for the giving up portion of Lent, I haven’t done so well. My lips have not touched chocolate. (Although there may have been cocoa powder in the French Vanilla Cappuccino mix that I used. ) I did not give up alcohol completely. I know that I’ve been told that Sundays aren’t included in Lent. There were at least three Sundays where I had a glass of wine (or two or…). And there were a couple of other days where I imbibed. If I try to justify it (and you know I’m going to), I think I drank six times this Lent and there are six Sundays in Lent, so even if I drank on days that were not Sunday, I only drank the number of times that there were Sundays. How’s that for twisted justification?

Despite me NOT giving my all, I have been reading and reflecting on daily devotionals that have been coming into my email box courtesy of the interim pastor at my church. They are not written by her, but from Teri McDowell Ott, editor of Presbyterian Outlook, and other contributors. Their “local pilgrimages” led them to some wonderful and not so wonderful places — places they’d probably never have gone without an assignment. Teri calls this a sacred exercise and invites you to go somewhere new; or somewhere familiar with notebook in hand; to pause, ponder, and pray. “What will God reveal to you?” It’s something to read once I get on the bus and these everyday thoughts often ring true to me. (Especially one from last week which was about riding public transportation.)

At the start of the season, I wanted to try and show more grace to those I encountered during Lent. I find myself focusing more on that during this Holy Week. The other day, I encountered a homeless man who was holding open the door for commuters at Penn Station. I always say thank you, but I don’t always hand him change (which he is not asking for). That day I did…I have no idea how much it was, but it was everything I had. Later, when I was heading home, I saw the man who sits in the hall that leads to the city rail station who asks for change. He’s not always there, but he was that day and I had no change to give him. As I passed by, I simply said hello and told him to be well. Was that enough?

The bus home that evening came quicker than I expected. (It wasn’t showing up on the transit app.) I had to ask to make sure it was the right one and barely had time to find a seat once I boarded. (The bus was surprisingly full.) I sat down next to a woman in a forward-facing seat that abutted a row of seats that face the sides of the bus. In that seat in front there was a woman who I’m assuming was homeless. She was dressed poorly and was holding/drinking a “malt” beverage. There was an odor…it may have been the woman or it may have been the can which she held. She was coughing quite a lot (another reason why I was glad I was wearing a mask). I thought with all of her coughing she might vomit. (I thought I might too with the smell.) She yelled out several times asking if anyone had any spare change that she could have for food and drink. I had no change. No one else engaged with her.

It seemed like a long bus ride home. The woman eventually fell asleep. The can fell and rolled around on the bus floor, leaving a trail of beer. No one picked it up.

My stop on the bus line is relatively close to the end of the line. There is only one more town after mine, although there are numerous stops that can be made. As I got off, I wondered what would happen to that woman. To me it appeared that she was riding the bus not to get to a destination, but to have a place to be. What would happen when the bus arrived at the final stop? What would the driver do? Where would she go?

As I walked home, I thought about her. I thought about the man holding the door. I thought about the man in the light rail hallway. I thought about the woman who is often at the city light rail stop when I get on in the morning. What do they do? Where do they go? How do they survive? And what can I do?

Which brings me to Mark 14:7 (New International Version): “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” (Or as Tim Rice wrote in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “There will be poor always, pathetically struggling. Think of the good things you’ve got.”)

There will always be poor. There will always be someone struggling. If I am to follow the teachings of Jesus (which I try to do, but don’t always succeed), I should do my part to help. The other day I helped by giving change to the man who held the door, spoke with kindness to the man in the hallway and prayed for the woman on the bus (as well as the bus driver.) Is it enough? No. Is it something? Yes. What can I do better in the future?

I can carry more change. (And keep it in different pockets so that I have multiple “sources” to grab from.) I can greet more people, whether it be with words or with a smile. (Even though my mouth is often covered.) I can continue to pray (for all of those who I encounter throughout the day).

This is not just a Lenten pledge; it’s something I should (will try to?) do every single day. Not because it is the “Christian” thing to do (which it is), but because it is the “right” and human thing to do.

It’s not always easy to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” but it’s worth striving for.

Beth Shorten is a lifelong resident of Verona from a long line of lifelong residents of Verona. Beth blogs regularly at Bfth’s Boring Blog.

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Beth Shorten
Beth Shortenhttp://bfthsboringblog.blogspot.com
Beth Shorten is a life-long resident of Verona from a long line of life-long Verona residents. She chronicles life here on her personal site, Bfth’s Boring Blog. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Beth,
    I don’t know how this Lenten thing began, and I believe that it got out of hand. What is giving up chocolate or wine during the season of lent doing in Christ’s name?
    Personally, I believe that you could find a time to work to make the world a better place. Giving all your change to the homeless person is a nice beginning. Perhaps you could join the group supporting better housing. Or more comprehensive care for veterans, a huge segment of the homeless population.
    My wife and I do food pantries (she there’s now for Holy Saturday), I work for neurological founding giving interviews, donations & started a support group that met during Lent.
    So like Christmas, where once a year, everybody is full of cheer and charity but come January, February, March, and beyond food pantries tend to dwindle. My point being that Christmas should not be a charitable one month action ( though that kindness can be wonderful) and Lent shouldn’t be giving up but giving in.

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