Ahhh, that lovely season of Lent is upon us once more and with it comes the tradition of giving something up, or sacrificing, if you will. Now, dont get me wrong. Im all for religious reverence, personal examination, and small acts of humility. Somewhere along the way during all those years in private school, thats how this practice of giving something up for Lent was described to me. In the past, Ive spent a good number of my Lenten seasons diligently giving something up. One year, when I was in the second grade, it was an actual class assignment, and had I not been eight, I would have had some serious issues with it. I gave up watching television, which actually worked to my advantage when we had an assignment to watch this program on TV and then write a little report on it. Even with my second grade logic, I was able to point out the irony to my teacher that in order to do that report, I would have to compromise myself on the other assignment, and therefore, I just couldnt do the report. I ended up having to do a book report. Last year, I also made an attempt at sacrificing again. I gave up mochas, but flubbed up on the first day, forgetting it was Ash Wednesday and had a mocha at Caribou. That led to quite an elaborate system of changing and qualifying my sacrifice. At one point, I actually created my own working definition of what constituted a mocha. As I have pointed out before, whipped cream is an incredibly vital part of any mocha, and if it is lacking, the mocha is not a real mocha and therefore is fair game. It grew more ridiculous from there and I gave up after about six days into Lent. Apparently, parting with espresso, even for a short time, just isnt a good idea for me. This year, Lent started early for me, around late September, to be precise, when I gave up going to my 9:05 class. Its like little kids who try giving up bathing or eating their vegetables for 40 days some sacrifices just arent a good idea. However, the retention rate of doing nearly an entire semesters worth of reading the night before finals is remarkable. People have suggested that I give up or limit my coffee intake for Lent this year. These are also some of the same people who think Im rude and crabby enough already, so do they honestly think cutting me off from my one last unadulterated joy in life will improve that situation? Are they hinting that I might be an addict? Isnt there already enough bitterness and unhappiness in the world without going around creating more in a tradition that thrives on personal guilt and shame? I know that Catholics and Lutherans really depend on that guilt, but I have an idea that can spin that guilt in a more positive, life-affirming way. A sacrifice is meaningless if your heart isnt in the right place or it feels like an obligation. Instead of giving something up, why not do something extra for the next 40 days (actually, its more like 25 days)? And Im not suggesting getting drunk every weekend night as opposed to just the one. Something to spread joy and sunshine, rather than depleting the already scant supply, like I would do if I were to follow peoples suggestions. For example, take an extra 15 minutes each day or so and write a letter to someone whom you havent written in a while. Give a Friday flower to someone different each week. Volunteer! This still requires thoughtful introspection and embodies the personal and individual qualities that this Lenten tradition fosters, but in a way that can bring a smile to someone else and make another corner of the world a little brighter.