Lent – Negotiating with a Nine Year Old

Once a week I volunteer tutoring a couple 4th grade young ladies. Both attend Catholic elementary schools and the tutoring program includes character education classes. At this time of year, the subject of Lent came up.

Each week we set personal and academic goals for them to work toward. When I asked about keeping their promise to Lent, what they are giving up and why they chose to give it up – and the negotiating began!

“We don’t have give it up all the time?”
“We can have a little instead of what we usually have?”
“Maybe on Fridays we can have it?”

Oh my, I think we missed the purpose of Lent. So I asked,
“What is Lent all about?”
“Why do you choose to give something up at all?”
They had the right answer, to prepare for Easter and bring them closer to Jesus. Hmmm, but they hadn’t quite internalized it yet, and maybe nine year olds don’t get it yet. But the negotiating was shocking to me. At Yom Kippur there was never a discussion with my Mom about fasting and what it was all about. We knew and we complied and sitting through Yom Kippur services is still a good opportunity to reflect.

My students and I discussed sacrifice and what giving up something means. We talked about what Jesus sacrificed. What giving up soda and gum and sweets (their choices) would mean to them? We talked about many people who don’t have those things to give up. Their personal goals through Easter are to keep their Lenten promise for themselves. It is a learning moment – to think outside yourself, to think of others.

Our conversation was a learning moment for me too. A good reminder about letting go of “stuff” that really isn’t important. Focus on the now. How can I  give back? Spring is almost here. Easter and Passover are around the corner. A time for renewal personally and professionally. However you decide to celebrate, I hope the new season brings you time for restoration and happiness.

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