The tradition of Lent inspired this post, but you don’t need to be religious to decide to do some good in this world. If you just want some ideas to help your community and some thoughts for your own improvement, skip to the lists.
The purpose of Lent is to prepare for the celebration and to create a heightened awareness that Jesus gave up his life for us. Traditionally Lent is thought of as a time to perform a sacrifice by giving something up, but this has never made sense (to me). Giving up something, like, say coffee, would definitely teach me sacrifice. It would also make me cranky and frustrated and not very Godly. I don’t think that is a very productive way to show my appreciation that Jesus died so that I could live. And don’t forget, no meat on Fridays! I’m super excited to close out the next few weeks with sushi. Let’s be real- that is hardly a sacrifice.
Whatever kind of Christian it makes me, I need to be more practical in how I celebrate Lent and show my appreciation for Jesus’ sacrifice. I believe it is better to do good and positively impact the community than to give up a trite habit. There is less significance in giving up coffee versus giving my time and energy to a needy cause. That’s what I believe Jesus would do. I was pleased to hear the new Pastor at church suggest this very same idea.
This Lenten season, don’t give something up, take something on. Something that makes you a better person, something that makes you more worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made.
Now don’t just write a check to the next sad face you see on TV or drop off donated items at a backdoor. While those things are always appreciated, this season commit to spending some time making a difference. I had to really think about this list because my first ideas were a little too common or impractical. So here I give you activities that I would consider worthy and realistic from a time/money point of view that also achieve the “do good” part of charitable work. I also wanted to be able to involve my children. It is never too early to let them feel the joy of helping others and to see that the world is bigger than the little bubble they tend to live in.
- Know how to sew? Make toys for the animals at the SPCA- check your local SPCA wish list.
- Pick up trash at the park or on your neighborhood bike path.
- Volunteer at a local 5k race. These events are possible in large part to volunteer work and always need helpers.
- Serve at a soup kitchen. Traditional, but sadly, always a need for more help.
- Visit a retirement home. Children (or you!) can make cards, pass out magazines, play a board game or bingo with the residents.
- Send thank you cards to the military. Here is more info on that- I love this.
- Host a lemonade stand with all profits going to a cause. My nieces used to host an entire neighborhood carnival benefiting the SPCA. It’s a fun way to help a cause that you are passionate about.
- Write letters to loved ones- maybe those you don’t keep in touch with, to say hi, let them know you are thinking of them, and what you are up to.
- Go to church. Pray. Nothing like going straight to the source for some inspiration.
- Create a good habit. Have a potty mouth? Vow to put a quarter in a jar every time somebody catches you. Then donate the money.
- Put family night on the calendar. Don’t think of it as giving up TV time, etc- think of it as gaining more quality time with your loved ones.
- Eat dinner together as a family.
- Say grace. We always have, but we just started taking turns saying our own personal prayer out loud instead of the traditional one we grew up with. The kids really get into it.
Non-organized vs organized
Most of these activities you can choose to do on your own time, when it works for you. If you are looking for a more regular volunteer schedule or specific events to help at, here are a few resources. My city has a great online resource for area groups that need volunteers, so check your local city’s Web site.
If you have an organization that needs volunteers, please let us know in the comments below.