I’m such a heathen. I had completely forgotten about Ash Wednesday yesterday and the beginning of another Lenten season. Although rooted in Christianity, Lent really has some good points regardless of your beliefs. Basically it tries to get us to “change our evil ways.”

Quite a few years ago, I was challenged to approach Lent differently. Rather than giving up a favorite food like Chocolate (the horrors), or cursing (I tried that and the quarter jar filled up pretty quickly), or television (what, no Walking Dead or Game of Thrones!), what about giving up something negative, like impatience, anger, jealousy?

That particular year, I vowed to become a more patient driver. Easier said than done. At the time, I lived in a suburban area outside of St. Louis while working in downtown St. Louis. My 35 mile commute home sometimes took an hour or longer and, to be honest, I was pretty crabby and tired when it was time to go home. Yelling at other drivers, weaving impatiently in and out of traffic wasn’t conducive to good will – mine or anyone else’s. My daughter used to say, “My mom is the nicest person in the world until you get her behind the wheel of a car.” Truer words. I even “invented” an imaginary gadget that we lovingly called “The claw” that would come out of the hood of my car, reach out and grab the slow car in front of me and move it to the side of the road and out of my way. The kids would say, “Get the claw!” That was a tough Lent, but by the time it was over, I really was becoming a more patient driver – becoming being the operative word. We’re all a work in progress.

These days, I’m a much more patient driver. Whether that’s because I no longer have to drive in crazy congested traffic going to and from work, or that I now live in the laid-back state of Oregon (known for the most courteous drivers in the country), or I’ve just mellowed (probably not), who knows? The fact is, I’ve changed.

So, this year, whether you celebrate Lent, or not, I would like to challenge you to become a kinder person. Goodness knows this world needs it with so much hate and dissension everywhere we turn. So, smile at that crabby person in the checkout line, or even better, let them go ahead of you and see if they eye you suspiciously. Make an effort to listen to a friend who’s going through a rough time, even if there’s nothing you can do except listen. Be a courteous driver, let in that car with its blinker on as they try to merge in or out of traffic. Reach out to an elderly neighbor or someone with a physical or mental disability. None of these things will cost you a penny, but they’re worth their weight in gold to the person you’re kind to

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