this lenten season is rockin for me. i don't give things up for lent - so far i believe that i will not only not grow spiritually if i give up chai - in fact, anyone in a 20 ft. radius of me would suffer for 40 days and nights. instead of giving things up, i take on a spiritual practice. sometimes it's yoga or meditation or praying the psalms daily.
my church recently joined a group called manhattan together. it's part of the industrial areas foundation. manhattan together is a consortium of congregations and social work organizations that listen to people's needs and work together to help get those needs taken care of. so, rather than us upper east siders stepping into harlem, say, and telling people, "you need x, y, and z and we are here to give it to you." like lady bountiful, we get to know our community and neighbors and ask them what they need and then look to our people power - resources, networks, sheer numbers - to make something happen.
a classic story is when some people who lived in a large apt. building in the bronx went to their parish priest saying, we need improvements in our apartments. they drew up an inventory of each apt. and what needed repairing and brought it to the (notorious) landlord who said he would fix it. and then he sent the tenants a letter stating that homeland security had asked for each tenant's name, social security number, address, and telephone number. one family moved out in the middle of the night but the rest went to the priest who went to the bronx version of manhattan together and they called their contacts at the housing authority and by the end of the story all the repairs were made and the tenants, who by working together got to know each other really well, had a big party.
this is a long way to describing my supercool lent but what we're doing at my church for lent is talking with each other to determine what issues come up for members of the congregation (almost all of us live in the neigb. of the church). now, i have been a parishioner at my church for 27 years - since i was 12 - and i am having conversations with people i have known most of my life that i have never had before. i'm learning about what really matters to people, what they notice about the neighborhood, about injustices large and small. the conversations are one-on-one and it's so amazing to see these people pairing off at coffee hour and talking. after the one-on-one i see these duos then walking out of church together, still talking, down the block, into the healthfood store, still talking. it's remarkable. i feel blessed and honored to be able to listen as people tell me what their lives are like or what they notice around us.
when we're done with our one-on-ones at church, we're going to talk with our neighbors in the community - there's a public h.s. and a housing project down the block. should be interesting to get to know the people we see all the time but don't know.
if you do lent, i hope yours is as kick butt as mine. i love lent. it's so quiet and soft. gentle and purple.