Elizabeth Bastian
Elizabeth Bastian, Perspectives Editor

BY ELIZABETH BASTIAN

Those of us who generally like to avoid unnecessary conflict are quite familiar with the “golden rule” of argumentation: never discuss religion or politics in mixed company.

And so, continuing on my liberal, postmodern, non-confrontational tradition, I will not get too into the religious aspects of this article. Because, to be quite honest, I cannot (and don’t really want to) place a label on my personal belief system.

That being said, I was raised in a Catholic family, attending a private Catholic school for nearly eight years of my young life. Consequently, I grew up with the season of Lent being celebrated both in and outside of the home. For those who are unfamiliar with Christian faith, Lent is a 40-day long period beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter, and generally involves some form of fasting, no meat on Fridays, and the giving up of a cherished object.

In grade school, our teachers always encouraged us to give up something that would be difficult but beneficial in the long run. For children, this request would result in no TV for 6 weeks, no candy, no chips, or something else along those simplistic lines. Ironically, many adults will do the same thing, using Lent as a way to better their diets, exercise regimens, or lifestyles in general.

I am not going to disregard the sacrificial element of this religious season. Frankly, I’m sure we all (at least, I definitely) could do with a little less sugar/caffeine/Facebook/sedentary-ness in our lives. But I think the focus is too much on what one should do without, rather than what one should do to enhance their well-being.

Instead of giving up something non-essential, why not give back to the community at large?
And this is not merely directed at Christians. This is applicable to all religions, all belief systems, all holidays; Yom Kippur, Ramadan, and the like. Donating time and effort does not require much more will-power than not checking your Twitter for 40 days (or, at least, it shouldn’t…). The local communities are in constant need of volunteers for all sorts of assistance tasks. This reflective time of the year could be used to not only better yourself, but to better the lives of others who truly need help.

This past summer, I spent one day a week volunteering my time at the Royal Oak Community Coalition. While it was a little exhausting to juggle this, a full-time job, and an unpaid internship, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I left that office every Tuesday feeling like I was a part of something bigger, that I was really making a difference. My only regret is that I can not be there right this very moment, continuing to create and produce changes for the youth of the city. I am sure anyone who has ever volunteered in their lifetime can empathize.

Tutor a child in math. Pledge to spend every Saturday morning with your little siblings. Become involved with a civic-minded organization on campus. Giving back doesn’t have to be a grand, showy gesture. Just as one can sacrifice something simple for the sake of the season, so can one simply donate their time to a project for the same reason.

So, the moral of the story here: no matter what religion you affiliate or don’t affiliate with, please try and find the time to proactively engage in your community. You will not regret it – scout’s honor.