Lent is a time of preparation for Easter - and, a time of giving things up to heighten our focus on Christ. Lent, or "Lint," as my 12 year old keeps calling it by accident, then correcting himslef - can be a challenge for even the most well-intentioned Catholics.
I, in the past, have given up People magazine; why in the world do I need even a few minutes a week of celebrity gossip? What is that bringing to my life? Well, in a sign of the times, I am giving up People.com this year; I now read People online. It may seem a small thing to give up, but it is kind of important; in a society where celebrity no longer has anything positive, on the whole, to offer us, not a moment should be spent idly perusing pictures and articles about people who seem more and more to be in their own version of hell.
Kids are amazingly good at sticking to their Lenten obligations; one year my youngest son gave up video games, and I never heard a thing about them for 40 days - while I was at the check-out line of the grocery store cocking one eye at the magazine rack and deep-breathing through the screaming headlines and "fun and flirty" fashions being worn by air-brushed stars that I could "copy at home - myself - even on a budget!" Oh no - was one of my favorite stars having a breakdown, taking pills, or having an affair? It's funny, but once you are actively giving something up - cigarettes, caffeine, sweets, a relationship, celebrity mags - you begin to see in high detail their pull on your life; the exhaustion and stress even seemingly innocent things can cause. In this way, Lent frees you, instead of imposes on you.
So, I will continue to avoid People, and when I want to read it - or, more accurately, when I, like a zombie, move to my drop-down bar on my computer to select People.com in a break from work - I will pause and say a prayer to be better, to give more, to thank my lucky stars for everything I have, everyone good and fine I am blessed to have in my life. And my son will be quietly and steadfastly giving up all soda for the next 39 days, without a word of longing or complaint, fulfilling a promise he has made to God. Amazing, energizing, and something to emulate.