Having a few Lenten laughs

Over the last dozen or so years, I’ve received my fair share of letters and emails correcting or lambasting me, and even questioning my faith. So I suspect this column will be fodder for some to express their opposition to the content.

Ever since I was a young boy (no, I’m not going to slip into a rendition of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard”) I never looked forward to Lent. After spending nine years in a parochial school, and having attended daily Mass before school on my own quite often, I got the impression that Lent was just not a happy time of year.

I understand it’s a time to reflect on our conversion and repentance, and to renew and rejuvenate our faith lives, but I always felt like many Lenten sermons, homilies and reflections pointing out our faults, were directed right at me.

There was even a year when a cousin of mine and I as youngsters were accused of getting ashes from the barrel my pépère used to burn trash, instead of going to church to get them. And we did go to church.

I thought I was a good kid, but I didn’t feel that way during Lent. Maybe it was just my neurosis back then, carrying over into adulthood.

That, and the fact that I was expected to give up something that I enjoyed, made Lent for me seem like much more than 40 days.

Even as Lent 2016 approaches, I feel a sense of dread and guilt creeping up.

But this year, I’m going to change the way I look at Lent and the way in which I will approach this holy season.

Yes, I will reflect upon how I can be a better disciple of Christ, and yes, I will work at correcting my many faults. But I want to do it with a smile on my face.

Mostly everywhere I go, I notice that people in general are not happy — at least when I see them, which is usually while they’re working or running errands or care-giving for a sick or elderly loved one.

I also noticed that given the chance, I try to make people smile, and if I’m really successful, make them chuckle. It doesn’t take much — a look, a joke, even laughing at yourself. A simple smile one way can evoke a return smile.

I was in a store the other day and the cashier cashing me out was obviously having a bad day. She tried to scan my rewards card (once I found the right one) while I held it in front of me. It wouldn’t scan and as the lasers were pelting me instead of the card, I stumbled backwards, as if shot. She immediately broke into laughter. I thanked her for charging me up for the day.

As I left, I noticed she was still smiling. A simple, silly gesture brought some sunshine to a cloudy day.

So, for Lent this year, I’m going to try to make a stranger smile or laugh each day, to bring some sunshine where it may otherwise be lacking.

It’s not exactly the sackcloth and ashes approach, but many of our neighbors already have enough of that in their lives.

Pope Francis asks that we always exhibit the joy of being a Catholic. That makes me smile.


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