Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Witness to Me

Fast, pray, give alms. That’s the short-form formula for Lent, and if you ask the average Christian what he’s doing for Lent, he’ll probably reduce it to fast: Lent as the Christian Diet Plan. But what about prayer, and alms? I heard a remarkable witness today involving alms-giving.

A friend, who will remain anonymous and gender-neutral, told me what they are doing for Lent. This person wrote:

Instead of sacrificing something for the Lenten season, I've decided to show mercy.  I'm doing this by writing forty letters to one death-row inmate . . .

I imagine that statement having the effect on you, dear reader, that it had on my wife this evening. She and I had been talking steadily for 30 minutes, before dinner and over the table. The conversation had been congenial and uninterrupted. Then I told her about our friend’s mission of mercy. Conversation stopped. The silence was rich and absorbing. When she set down her fork, the plate sang.

My friend reported to me on the experience of writing the first of forty letters today, referring to a post I had written about preconceptions and how they hinder us. My friend wrote:

Even half-way through the first letter today, it feels as though all of my preconceptions about “people like that” have been divinely lifted.

I woke up on the morning of Ash Wednesday to a news story that tries my faith. I will go to bed this evening with a witness that bolsters it.

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