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Forty days and forty nights l Chuck's World


Last updated 4/17/2019 at Noon

I have a story for the season. I’m not sure which season yet.

It could be an Easter story, but then there’s already one of those. And sometimes people think you’re referring to chocolate bunnies, and it’s hard to construct a decent metaphor out of those. Something about melting, maybe.

It could certainly be a story about spring, about rebirth, about planting seeds for a distant future. About digging out those cargo shorts and knowing, deep down, that they’re never going to fit again. Not after this winter.

I think we could use a good spring story, come to think of it. Weather aside, it’s been feeling a little wintry for a while now. The general mood has an icy tone these days.

But this is a Lent story. It was always going to be one.

I had this idea. I have lots of ideas. They show up, make their pitch, and get shown the door, usually. There are so few good ones.

But I’m a fan of consistency, of doing the same thing for a period of time and seeing what, if anything, is the result. So I looked at Lent, conveniently on the calendar, and I got an idea.

I attend a fairly mainstream Protestant church, although if you know anything about churches you’re possibly smiling at that description. There’s probably a church down the street that has an opinion about my use of “mainstream.”

Some people tend to feel secure in their beliefs and a little more secure about how wrong their neighbors are.

But even in my little church, I suspect most folks take a pretty passive attitude toward Lent. Some people still tend to have the idea that it involves sacrifice (which it certainly can), but they seem a little unsure about the point so they don’t really do it.

This has been me, quite often, although, as I said, it’s mostly because I don’t have any good ideas.

I’ve been griping about social media for years, though, and lately it’s become worse. I’m constantly complaining to my wife about some post or another from somebody I know, either spreading disinformation or cluttering up my newsfeed with nonsense, or otherwise behaving in ways that I don’t agree with.

I’ve used every tool in the book to keep these folks under my radar, and still they sneak through and I get triggered. I want to fight, I want to argue, I want to correct. If you spend any time at all on these sites (we’re really just talking about Facebook, but I’m trying to spread it around), you know what I’m talking about.

It’s hard to resist putting my two cents in.

And there it is. My friend from junior high insists on misunderstanding the ramifications of the commerce clause in the Constitution, and it’s my responsibility to tell him and his readers that I’m so much smarter.

That’s all it is, too. My uninformed friend isn’t changing the world. This was all about me. Maybe I should try shutting up.

So I did. And the scales fell from my eyes, and I saw that I was naked, and I was ashamed.

Or just a little embarrassed, anyway. It turned out to all be about me. I could just choose to stay away, and as often as that’s occurred to me, I was surprised by the results when it happened.

And as I told people from the beginning of this experiment, I was mostly curious about what was distracting me from being better. From doing better, from making the rest of my time here on this planet more useful. To get out of my own way. To stop judging so much. To stay out of other people’s business.

It’s hard to do. People on the internet are wrong so often. Really, it’s amazing.

You can think that organized religion is the dumbest idea since Trump Steaks and I have no argument to offer, other than the world is full of mystery and sometimes that shows up as irony.

As Lent began, a friend of mine became ill. Eventually he was diagnosed with cancer, but he has several serious conditions, requiring long hospital stays with intermittent recovery periods. I’ve become very used to hospital parking garages (always park on level B if you can) and knocking over IV stands.

I’m not his caretaker as much as his chauffeur, and really I’m just his friend, but it turned out that sticking my nose into someone else’s business sometimes isn’t a bad idea.

And I flailed a good deal. Sometimes I thought he was getting too dependent on me. Sometimes I worried I wasn’t doing enough.

Once again, then, I realized that it was all about me, and I think I found my Lenten lesson.

Look, do what you want about Facebook. Maybe you’re never online, or rarely. I’m just saying it can get in the way.

But my real Lenten lesson?

I’m not going to be a professional do-gooder; I don’t have the skill set. I do my best. What I’ve learned is that I can do better, and I should, because somebody should.

My friend needed help. People need help. I see them almost every day. The next time I get off I-5 at the James off-ramp, ready to turn up the hill toward the hospital, I’ll see them.

I always look in the other direction. I never wonder if anyone helps them.

I know.


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