Trial Balloon

Lenten Sacrifice

Posted at 5:36 AM on April 2, 2010 by Radio Heartlander (26 Comments)
Filed under: Guest Bloggers

From the Desk of the Heartlanders
Guest Blogger - Beth-Ann

I come from a Christian tradition that observes Lent and calls for some sacrifice. I have been for the most part disdainful of the "I'm giving up candy" or "I'm dieting to fit into my bathing suit" approach to the 40 days of reflection. It seems that too often these acts of piety devolve into self-centeredness and bragging. They tempt the cynic in me to claim that I am giving up sweet corn and watermelon for Lent.

In junior high, we had a guest speaker for religion class who told us rather than giving something up, he changed a part of his daily routine during Lent so that every day he would be reminded that something was coming and he should prepare. As I recall, that year his plan was to switch his usual breakfast from Cheerios to Frosted Flakes.

With this inspiration, I resolved that for all of Lent I would say good morning to Sister Bitting. Sister Bitting ran the school store and every morning she stood behind the counter and sold pencils, notebooks, etc. She never smiled and we were all afraid of her, because we knew she must be mean. In the spirit of Lenten sacrifice, I began to greet her every morning rather than just rushing by. As the 40 days went by it got to be an easy habit and Sister Bitting even began to respond.

You can guess how the story ends...At the end of Lent, I continued to greet sister and she would not only respond but would wish me luck on my exams and ask about my family. When the freezer broke, Sister Bitting called me out of class and gave me all the ice cream and popsicles. Over the years she proved to be quite kind and I came to feel guilty. I wanted to say, "Stop! You were my Lenten sacrifice. I shouldn't be benefitting from this arrangement."

On the other hand, maybe that was the point....

Have you ever gotten back more than you deserved?


Comments (26)

first of all, Beth-Ann - you must have been quite the kid to go from changing cheerios to frosted flakes (where's the challenge in that?) to befriending someone scary. YOU should be teaching religion!
i always seem to get more good back than i deserve and less bad. just lucky. there's something in me that would draw me to Sr.Bitting, the underdog, the runt of the litter.
what a wonderful example of the intention of the season that you wrote for us today. thank you. i'll try to think of a specific example for later. for now, will enjoy reading

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | April 2, 2010 6:15 AM


Good Morning to All,

Good story and good theme for the blog, Beth-Ann. It reminds me of how I got back more than I gave for doing volunteer work in agriculture overseas.

I participated as a volunteer in a program where my travel was paid and I gave my time to help with agricutural development.I had such a good time in Bulgaria that I decided to go back and try to do some work on my own.

I knew it would not cost much to stay in Bulgaria, but when I got there my Bulgarian friend refused to take any money for giving me a place to stay, feeding me, making arrangments, and acting as my translator.

Posted by Jim | April 2, 2010 6:23 AM


I've just caught up on all the posts for the past week while we have been out-of-town (and mostly off-line). Great writing one and all!

I've been the recipient of so much generosity in my life, it would be impossible to pick out one instance above them all.

I really like this approach to the Lenten Sacrifice-we did not do it this year, but last year set ourselves the limits of eating only what we could get from local sources or out of the pantry/deepfreeze. Instructive if nothing else. Still working on improving our locovoire status.

Posted by catherine | April 2, 2010 6:40 AM


Great story Beth-Ann.

I worried about my friend Marilynn when her husband of 60 years died of emphysema. Marilynn is a political progressive with strong convictions. She and Gene lived in extreme southeastern Minnesota. I remember thinking that Marilynn could have held a meeting of all the political progressives in her county in her Honda Civic, with maybe room for one or two more. I worried she would be lonely without Gene.

Right after Gene's death I began writing a daily email letter to her. Writing Marilynn is how I start each day. I describe my day and share whatever is on my mind. The letters average six or seven pages in length. After a decade of this, the stack of printed letters is probably twice my height.

Marilynn often says getting her letter is the high point of her day. Writing them is the sweetest discipline I've ever accepted. Writing the letters helps me discover beauty and meaning in my life, and the printed letters are an intimate, detailed record of my life in this past decade.

Marilynn, who is 86, might some day not be there to read and answer my letter. If that happens, I think I might go on writing anyway, for the letters are at least as much of a blessing to me as to my old friend. We are made rich by what we give to others.

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | April 2, 2010 6:53 AM


Good morning Heartlanders. What a great start to the weekend (3-day weekend for me... whoo hoo). Thank you, Beth-Ann, for a heartwarming theme. It seems interesting that so far, all of us think that we get back much more than we give. I feel the same... very lucky to be surrounded by friends and family that I love and, despite all my misgivings, love me in return.

I did not come from a traditional Lenten background... I don't think I even knew what Lent was until I was in high school. I did trying giving up things a few times, but w/o no real idea of why I should be giving things up, it wasn't much of a regimen. These days I keep a "Gratitude" journal... at least once a week I try to write down some of things I'm grateful for. Knowing that I will be writing things down helps me ponder my thankfulness during the week.

And I am definitely thankful for this group of grand folks!

Posted by sherrilee | April 2, 2010 7:08 AM


Lovely story, Beth-Ann!

When my oldest son was a toddler, back in the days before I had a cell phone, he and I had to make a road trip together. On the way home, my clutch died. A woman with two children stopped, brought me back to her home, and allowed me to work out details with my husband initiating the first call from her home. That situation could have been so much worse. Instead, I learned about her family, her children, their lives while I waited for my tow, etc.

Happy weekend!

Posted by elinor | April 2, 2010 7:27 AM


I will add my praise as well Beth-Ann - lovely story!

I think for me the sometimes unexpected payback comes from building low-budget sets (as in $100 for Pippin or $300 for Mulan low ). Half of the fun is the challenge of figuring out what I can build or create within the budget that fits the needs of the show. As often as not, though, my greatest "pay" for those shows is the appreciation of the cast - especially from kids. Sometimes it feels like I have built them the Taj Mahal rather than a pine and canvas China.

Posted by Anna | April 2, 2010 7:49 AM


great stream of chat today. i try to be generous in accepting other people's help/gifts, etc. but that's always been difficult for me. at age 33 i did an internship at KUMC. Steve was in Virginia, we had no money so i lived in a small dorm on campus. i met a woman studying pharmacokinetics (difficult to even say much less understand when your first language is Cantonese). she was from Hong Kong, she called me Ba Ba La. (no character in her language for "ra" so we shortened it to Ba Ba) i'm sure she had no money, but she loved to cook (such delights - i still hunger for them!) she would come to my room and invite me for "noodles" and i would find all sort of veggies, pork, fruit, not to mention noodles that she had cooked up with a burger press and a rice cooker. i went to the local farm market and bought a bunch of veggies so that i could repay her. she explained that wasn't good manners. not Asian to want to repay every gift. the repayment is accepting the gift with humility and gratitude. that will always be my challenge - taught to me by Julia Lao.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | April 2, 2010 8:01 AM


Dear RHers,
What a blessing and blessed group this is! I, too, have many undeserved returns on small investments....too many to single out any in my mind this morning.

"How Can I Keep From Singing?" thanks for that, Dale & Mike & jasper...one of the blessings.

Blessings of the weekend on y'all. Thank you, Beth-Ann...perfect offering for the day.

Posted by cynthia in mahtowa | April 2, 2010 8:02 AM


Greetings! Very sweet story, Beth-Ann. I was also raised Catholic and attended Catholic grade school, so the whole Lenten thing was strong. But giving up candy or changing Cheerios for Frosted Flakes never struck me as very meaningful and I never quite understood it.

Your example is a much better example of what Christianity should be teaching.

This is difficult for me to share, but with my husband not working and other severe financial pressures, we have been going to local food shelves sponsored by churches the past two weeks.

It always amazes me for as much I hate to ask for help, people usually respond generously. At these churches (which we don't attend), they ask no questions, no forms to fill out, no pressure to join or convert -- just wonderful people who want to help. I wept the first time I went and I still do.

I feel I need to start giving more to others as this has been a lesson for me far superior than anything I learned in Catholic grade school. Happy weekend, all!

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | April 2, 2010 8:07 AM


This blog theme reminds me of a time when I was treated unusually well and should have been more generous in return. On a volunteer trip to Bolivia I had a very good translator who traveled with me and did many things to help me. She was very short on money and could have used a generous tip from me, which I could afford, but it didn't occur to me that I should do this before I left for home.

Posted by Jim | April 2, 2010 8:09 AM


Catherine -- you used a word I don't know: locovoire. Would you mind explaining it? Is it something about eating locally?

Thx

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | April 2, 2010 8:10 AM


My husbands elderly Aunt was an expert at spitting vinegar, resulting as you might expect. One day, when she spit too much at my husband, I spat some at her certainly not expecting her grin and twinkle! Clearly undeserving the benefits that followed,

Thanks Beth-Ann!

Posted by Kim in Saint Paul | April 2, 2010 8:16 AM


He was a porch cat for awhile, sleeping on a rocking chair, and companionably following me around the yard when I was out doing gardening chores. After a time I noticed that when I came home from work he knew my car and would already be coming down the sidewalk meowing at me before I even parked the car.

One cold day I opened the door and invited him in, and it still amazes me that you can get a sweet, cuddly ball of purring fur like this one for zero dollars. He's worth at least a thousand.

Posted by Linda in Saint Paul (West Side) | April 2, 2010 8:28 AM


I just read the posts of the morning and tears came to my eyes. Thanks to all who share this space for your more than gracious praise and even more for being open in sharing your stories both of generosity and the difficulty in accepting generosity. Who knew that the unwelcome end of the morning show would bring us together and offer us the blessing of this community?

Posted by Beth-Ann | April 2, 2010 8:29 AM


Joanne - isn't it difficult to accept that help? i'm so happy that you have, though. times will be better soon.
Kim, for a bit i thought your Aunt was really spitting vinegar. i wondered why one would do that?? ha, ha! good story.
Cynthia - i agree. what a great group of folks on TB.
talk about blessings: today everyone in the barn is doing just GREAT. everyone is eating as they should, pooping and peeing as they should, resting or jumping around as they should. Luna, Rosa and Crema are two weeks old today; Dancer and Loki, 9 days. yipeee!

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | April 2, 2010 8:36 AM


i grew up a catholic schol kid in the days of rulers on the knuckles and locked in the coat closet for misbehavior. lent was part of the program that was as part of the hypocracy as the rest of the routine. peolpe would give up soda pop or peanut butter or some nothing sacrafice. itried to make it meanful but was stumped as to how to do that. 1 year i decided to give up whatever i wanted vs what i needed. it taught the seperation of want and need that i still carry with me today. it was a lot more interesting to have to use a little thought rather than skipping twinkees for a month.
great topic beth ann thanks

Posted by tim | April 2, 2010 8:44 AM


We haven't heard from Clyde for several days. I hope he is okay and isn't suffering too much from medical problems he has mentioned.

Posted by Jim | April 2, 2010 9:02 AM


When we lived in Winnipeg we rented a small house from an couple who had immigrated from Italy in the 1960's They lived next door and we became their friends and they also considered us their responsibility to help whenever they could. They took us to social functions in their Italian (Calabrese) community, challenged us to tomato growing contests, and taught me how to make home made pasta. I also got a personal introduction to the Italian butcher, Pasquale, who was instructed to treat me with respect and deference whenever I shopped at his store. They were lovely people and we try to see them whenever we get to Winnipeg.

Posted by Renee | April 2, 2010 9:05 AM


Morning everyone...

Anna- I can relate. Good Job!

My family never did much to observe lent... I work with a man who LOVES his cigars-- and consequently everything he owns smells like cigars / smoke. And I would lecture him that he needed to quit smoking. Last year he told me he was giving up cigars for lent. While admirable I told him I hoped his Easter cigar would make him sick.
It didn't but his doctor put enough pressure on him too that I think he has finally given them up...

Barb, glad to hear all are doing well in the barn!

Have a great weekend everyone. (I mean, if you want...I'm not telling you how to live or anything...)

Posted by Ben | April 2, 2010 9:18 AM


Jim - I, too have been wondering about Clyde and missing his wit, wisdom and poetry on TB. I hope all is well with him and that we'll hear from him soon.

Barb - so glad to hear that all the 'kids' are doing so well. Such a joy!

Steve - I wonder if Catherine meant to type "locovore" -- which is precisely what you said -- someone committed to consuming all food from local sources (however they define local). I read an article a while back about some families doing that. It's difficult to do in MN in winter unless you define local to mean within 500-1000 miles. Tough choices to make.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | April 2, 2010 9:36 AM


Beth-Ann, thank you for your lovely and thought-provoking writing.

When I was in jr high I had a cranky and critical lit teacher who seemed to like only a few select students. I wasn't one of them. We read Old Yeller that year and one day during a discussion she asked how Travis knew what he had to do when his dog was inflicted with rabies. She called on me and I said that he knew it in his heart. She scoffed and said of course that was not it -- he knew it in his HEAD. And so the year went....
On the last day of school, I told her goodbye and thanked her for her teaching. She thanked me in return and I boldly asked, "for what?" She hesitated then surprised me by saying, "for giving me all those smiles from your desk."

Happy Easter and a heartfelt thanks to all of you for the smiles you bring daily.

Joanne - "What lies behind us and before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." Someday you'll be giving back to those food providers.

Posted by Donna | April 2, 2010 9:48 AM


Wonderful stories this morning, thanks Beth-Ann for a thoughtful entry. When I finally met the neighbors across the street and down a few doors, I offered to babysit with their(then) 2- and 6-year-old girls. Had NO idea how much fun we would have, and how we all would become fast friends with a similar world view, who love getting together spontaneously on their patio or in our back yard during the warm seasons. What a gift!

And yes, giving is often easier than receiving. I hear you, Joanne. What kind of work is your husband seeking? I wonder if we could have a networking day here on the blog - all of us know someone trying to find work; less likely, but maybe we know someone looking for workers??

I wonder if Clyde is super busy this week before Easter... I hope that's why he hasn't been on.

Congrats Barb on all the healthy goatlets.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | April 2, 2010 9:56 AM


Just got back from a wonderful neighborhood gathering... thousands of plastic eggs filled w/ candy laid out over four yards. The kids started to show up about 8:45. Hunt/race started at 9:15. Santa and the Easter Bunny made appearances as well.

AND... Barb, there were GOATS. Petting zoo showed up... ponies, sheep and goats. In fact, one looked alot like Alba, so I got to show off, saying I thought that goat was an Alpine! What I've learned from being part of this community!!!

Happy Spring all!

Posted by sherrilee | April 2, 2010 10:00 AM


I'm here. Read the last couple of days in the evening, read the opening parts well and admired them; skimmed the other entries. You are all up to your usual standards. Did not really have much to add last two days and would get way to preachy today. Not at work today.
I'm fine; sorry to raise concern. Two real issues: 1) lots of other distractions and 2) my body does not like change of seasons, especially spring; not allergies as such. Not worth the long explanation. This time of year every year there are about two weeks that are bad. Hard to concentrate and hard to use my hands and arms. So been focusing on getting my work done right (and a busy week for details and then discussed my future with my new boss). Typing is a killer.
Been worried about you, Joanne. Hold the course. Would love to tell you lots of stories about food shelf; our line 2 was once the local food shelf number. Some callers I want to tell to grow up and be a decent human and others I want to give them all I have--all judged by their tone of voice when they call and when I explain the right number. Joanne--one of the graces of life is the grace to receive; a hard one for many of us and our Midwestern values.
People who have given to me when I was supposed to give to them--top of my list would be several nuns who hired us/me to work in their schools. Too many cliches out there and too many cliched nuns in education. When I think of a vision of Christ and what he was about, I think of many nuns. Especially the nuns here in Mankato, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, about whom a book has been written.
Any way enough.

Posted by Clyde | April 2, 2010 10:28 AM


the giving that this group offers is a great thing to behold.
clyde i am glad to hear you are ok sorry to hear you are getting hammered by the seasons changing. i wish you a quick passing of the symptoms. i miss the wit and the poetry you bring your great stories and perspectives.
joanne best wishes to your family and hope for a speedy solution to the job shift. let us know if there is a way we can help put out the feelers.
the best stuff is what comes back to you for doing the right thing is the moral of todays topic. great thought to carry over the easter weekend.
steve i love that you have an exceptionally complete record of the last bunch of years that you thought you were doing to keep someoe else from feeling lonely and the truth is it helps you more than you will ever realize to keep that stuf in front of you. i remember thinking what a wonderful idea tha was in the color purple when the letters to god every day kept her in contact with her innner self.
this is such a good group thanks for all that you give every day. have a nice easter weekend.
my 17 year old went off to florida with his high school baseball team and is prepared for the m&m hunt on easter morning with his roomies. my daughters are so happy to have an opportunity to find some m&m's this year because he usually finds 80% of the hidden treasures before they get into the swing of things. different this year.
ben, does he inhale the cigars? i smoked 3 packs of marlboros for years and quit a couple years back. i enjoy a cigar now and again and was feeling like i was enjoying a relatively safe version of tobacco seeing as there is no inhaling etc.m am i living in la la land?
best wishes

Posted by tim | April 2, 2010 12:00 PM


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