Somewhat having writer's block on how to write on observations...
At our church, for Lent the theme is At Odds with... (I guess you could fill in the blank). If I think about it, the church is at odds with society, at this time, with the whole concept of waking up on Sunday mornings, going to church, Sunday school, etc. That's not the "normal" much in society. The church is at odds with society in having ashes in the form of a cross, for Ash Wednesday - again, not the "normal" for society. Also at odds with having Wednesday soup suppers and then services afterward.
Many people give up things for Lent. I don't know that I have ever done that. I have added reflection time (which I suppose does mean I gave up something else to do so). This Lent I suppose I'm a bit "at odds" with myself in terms of thinking of what I can do. I've been trying to notice things lately, with the sense that in the economic times where we find ourselves, things are different than they used to be.
What I observe is that last year, I noticed a term called the "new normal." Late last year, there was a story somewhere on words that are overused and that was there. Another similar term is the "new reality." These terms seem, to me, to be used whenever there is a context of a financial struggle.
But what perplexes me is the word "new" as part of "normal" and "reality." To me, the struggles may seem new, but they really aren't new. Maybe they have surfaced and seem new to some, but they were coming and I think I saw them awhile ago. Maybe where I live is behind in terms of being hit financially, but I'm not sure that's it. So this "new normal" and "new reality" bothers me. Maybe I saw them in a segment of the population - did it hit people with disabilities first and that's why this doesn't seem new to me? Or maybe it's because I live in the disability world and just noticed it, but it's been going on everywhere and there are now terms for it. But it seems that wherever I turn these days, there's the sense that this is new.
So going back to Lent, I think I want to try to find a way to be at odds with this "new" perception. It's not to say that I don't see that it exists everywhere I turn. It's depressing really - I know people, more than just 1, who are close to being homeless and I would never have guessed that would happen to them. There's the feeling that no one is immune from all of this - the sense that no one knows what tomorrow will bring, and it's in a negative sense.
So this "new" perception, I've noticed, does not bring out the best in people. People try to help others; people try to be nice. But there's also a sense of urgency everywhere - and so then it seems to turn people somewhat and there's a "snap" effect and a sense of frustration.
To be at odds with the "new" perception, I suppose I have to figure out ways myself not to "snap," not to be frustrated, not to dwell on the "new" everywhere I turn. I can't say I can make a total turn and become happy about everything, because that's not reality.
I suppose what I can do is try to help those who are frustrated and to listen, knowing that I probably can't help solve their frustrations, but I can listen. I did that twice this past week - and for the few people who read this, know me, and may think they know who I listened to, I'd say it's probably not who you are thinking and you probably don't know them.
So Lent, at odds with society - I think for me it's going to a reflective time of thinking how, even though I will continue to have frustrations, I can open myself to not dwell exclusively on frustrations. And it's going to be a reflective time on how I can best listen, because if I look at this past week, there are people who just need someone to listen. They may need to actually cry. I'm not a counselor and can't solve their frustrations. I'm not sure why a few people have been asking me to listen. But I can listen, just as people have listened to me. That is, apparently, just what some people want - they said "thanks for the ear."
Lent - at odds - looking for a light in the midst of what seems a time of darkness, and being open to listening to those who are struggling, even as I may struggle.