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Cam Marston on Getting in Line

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As I write this, Mardi Gras ended yesterday. It was a glorious final few days. Perfect weather and large crowds. I took a double helping of Mardi Gras this year seeing as how Covid took Mardi Gras away from us last year. I felt I was overdue. And, if, by the way, there’s something I did or said or if you were hit by one of many large flying rubber chickens and you feel you’re owed an apology, get in line. The stories are still coming in. A new one recently about a tambourine.

Today, Ash Wednesday, begins Lent. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I needed it. Every year I struggle with what to give up for Lent. I want it to be meaningful but don’t want it to be too hard. However, the point of it is to be difficult or else it’s meaningless. Last year I changed things up and I added something to each day. I think it was a spiritual reading. But my kids admonished me saying that Lent is about giving stuff up, it was about sacrifice, and I know they’re right. And I know that I’ve always had more fulfillment by taking things away from my life, not by adding more. Less is more. Less is always more.

I remember a friend from long ago gave up everything that had wheat in it. If wheat was an ingredient, it was off her diet. Bread, of course. In fact anything with flour in it. And beer, too. Pancakes. All my wheel-house foods. She had to diligently track her diet and read ingredients to honor her Lenten commitment. I was impressed but remember thinking that is simply too much work.

Lots of folks down here give up alcohol which is a natural thing to do and is certainly what feels like the right thing to do after Mardi Gras. Some of them go cold turkey for the entire length of Lent, most, though, give it up alcohol on weekdays only and one particular friend had such an extraordinary matrix of what he called cheat days that I think he drank more days over lent than he abstained.

Yesterday I read about a guy who gave up English for lent. He was working to become fluent in another language and decided to drop his native tongue. Now that’s big. That’s hard. And I wonder if he lived some place where his second language was the common language otherwise he walks in to work Ash Wednesday needing an interpreter. I can’t imagine his employer was pleased.

But me? What do I need to stop doing for the next 40 days that will help me understand sacrifice and heal my soul? I’m sure many of you who I bumped into over Mardi Gras have strong suggestions for me and you’d be more than happy to share them but, again, you’re going to have to get in line.

I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.