Since Bill wasn’t home in time to take him, we all went last night to Fritz’s Cub Scout den meeting. Fortunately, the meetings are in the Scout Hut and not someone’s house, so there was enough space to accommodate my family.
I chatted with another mom. She had seen Bill’s ashes at the beginning of Lent and was asking me a few questions. How long was Lent? When was Easter? It turns out that a girl in her daughter’s Brownie troop had said that she had given up beverages other than milk and water for Lent. Most of the girls had no clue what Lent was (South of the Mason-Dixon you’ll find pockets of Catholics, but whole swathes of country with nary a Catholic Church to be found), and this woman had explained Lent as best as a non-Catholic could.
Now I thought that it was a great sacrifice for a 9 year old girl to give up juice boxes and Kool-Aid and all those other beverages. It seems that every activity my kids belong to – from CCD to baseball – requires the parents to take turns bringing snacks and drinks. I am pretty sure that I never had snacks at my CCD classes oh so many years ago, and wonder about a generation of kids unable to go 2 hours without food or drink, but whatever. Giving up juice boxes when you’re 9 is a big deal. Kudos to her.
But then the woman said she just wanted to know how long the troop needed to continue to supply the girl with a water bottle in lieu of a juice box.
Now hold on there.
First of all, we are supposed to fast in secret. I don’t think it’s a big deal to add a “I gave it up for Lent” to a “No, thank you” when offered chocolate chip cookies or cake or some other treat at someone’s house. Sometimes it’s easier to say that than to have your declination be perceived as a rejection of the homemade delicacies. Such a statement implies, “I really WANT one of those brownies, and am being tortured by their very sight, but I can’t. Just ask me again in a few weeks and I’ll devour the whole plate!” And this will mollify a proud and sensitive baker (like me).
But if you are offered a juice box at a club meeting, all that is necessary is to say, “No, thank you.” No one will be offended if you don’t drink the store-bought Juicy-Juice. Maybe you’re just not thirsty.
Secondly, what sort of a sacrifice are you making if you give up something and then expect everybody to kow-tow to your situation? A friend of mine said her husband gave up cooked food one year for Lent. She then felt compelled to get creative in her meal preparation: chopping vegetables and fruit for him, shopping and scouring the aisles for acceptable alternative foods, etc. His sacrifice became her sacrifice. Perhaps a better Lenten sacrifice would be to fend for oneself for food during Lent – proclaim any dish prepared by someone other than yourself off limits.
Now, I don’t expect a 9 year old to be fully aware of the social niceties surrounding Lent. Besides, around here, at least, children are taught that everybody should accomodate their special requirements. Not only am I expected to provide a snack for my kids’ social functions, but I’m made aware of all the banned foods due to allergies. I’m lucky that my kids are, so far, free from allergies. I guess I should be more sympathetic to those who have to deal with and worry about this issue. But when I was a kid (yeah, one of those awful phrases), kids who had allergies brought their own snacks.
So, it’s no wonder that a young girl would expect the same treatment: I am entitled to a snack and drink; I can’t have juice; you must bring me water. But when the woman suggested mentioning the situation to the parents of the girl, I agreed completely. She really should bring her own water bottle.
We all need to look at our Lenten sacrifices and make sure others aren’t suffering with us. If we give up American Idol to pray the rosary – great! If we give up reading bedtime stories to the kids to do it – not so great.