The real season of giving

By Chris Faulknor, Publisher

I remember the first time I wandered out for an Ash Wednesday service.

I had just started going to church.

I was in middle school and was using the “learn as you go” method of religious education.

Father Frank, all of 72 years old, stood in the front of the church passing out ashes.

When I say this, I should explain.
Ashes of burnt palm leaves are placed on each person’s forehead in the shape of a cross.
This is the day that launches the season of Lent—a time of sacrifice within the Catholic church in preparation for Easter.
Anyway, as we all got our foreheads sufficiently ashed before moving along on our way, the priest said, “Remember, man, you are dust, and dust you shall return.”
I’m not diving into the religious facet of this.
There are hundreds of easy points to be made on living a moral life and how people can best spend this season in their faith, but I’m going to leave that to the priests and pastors, because they will undoubtedly do a better job.
What I am going to dive into, however, is the concept of giving.
We are dust and dust we shall return.
That strikes a chord in me because it leaves me with the firm understanding that, wherever we go, we can’t take anything with us.
Money, houses, cars, and even that collection of antique fountain pens will all be left behind.
And yes, if I have gobs of money to my name when I turn in my column to the great editor in the sky, I’d love to know that my family is well taken care of.
But with that, I’d also like to know that my time was well spent and that my resources were well used.
My resources and yours may very well be different.
I don’t have gobs of cash to keep the food pantries overflowing, so I pick up hitchhikers.
My wife is cringing right now, because she thinks I’m taking a risk.
She thinks it’s dangerous and, yes, she might be right.
I pick up hitchhikers, I stop to help people push their cars, I change tires, and if I have any cash on me, I always stop at the bake sale outside the grocery store.
I’ve been the guy at the side of the road with no means to travel.
In fact, it’s happened to me several times in the past year, either due to my reluctance to stand at the gas pump in the cold while the gas flows or my unwillingness to part with the cash needed for a tire.
Sometimes, I’m lucky and someone stops. Sometimes I’m calling my wife or mother to rescue me.
But, I’ve also been the one without an easy rescue, and so I stop.
If I get stabbed one day, I’d honestly be comfortable knowing that I left this world intending to help someone in need, even if the doctor lists my cause of death as “incurable stupidity and recklessness.”
We are dust and dust we shall return.
We can’t take our belongings with us, and we’re going to leave everything behind.
What will you leave behind?
Hopefully, I’ll leave behind a wife who remembers that I loved her and did everything I could to help her grow and succeed.
Hopefully, I leave behind three amazing children who learned something watching how I lived my life.
But, even beyond that, if I leave behind one guy who can say “That’s the guy who took a risk and picked me up at the side of the road in a thunderstorm,” then I’ll have lived a life worth living.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of a sacrificial season.
Whether you celebrate Lent or not, is it time to start making sure you leave this world better than you found it?
Plant a tree, pick up a piece of trash, rescue a hitchhiker, or, if you can’t do any of that, take the time to smile at someone in the grocery store.
We can’t take anything with us, so let’s leave it all on the field and give it everything we have.
One more thing, before someone asks—I’m not dying, and my own eventual demise did not inspire this column.
Other than a cough and a whopper of a headache, I’m in good health.

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