Hmmm, my Prayer & Fasting during Lent are going OK, but the Almsgiving is eluding me. I had decided (rightly I think) that almsgiving should be broader than just giving money. I now define it as not only making donations to charitable causes but giving my whole self. Thus, choosing a way to serve others by donating clothes, household items, and my time, is also almsgiving. Fine. Over the years I’ve done plenty of those practical things.

As I evaluated my life and time during Lent 2022, however, it seemed to me that pruning the many papers that were cluttering my desk and office would be a worthy project since, once done, it would simplify my life, help me do things faster, reduce distractions, help me focus. However good this might make me feel, it was a self-help project that didn’t exactly feel like service or very spiritual. I partially followed through on my decision to spend at least 15 minutes a day clearing paper clutter, but I didn’t make much progress.

I had to face the reality that life and projects keep getting in the way. I wondered if:
1.  Maybe pruning paper was the wrong choice for a Lenten practice.
2.  I just let too many other priorities get in the way.
3.  I was avoiding it as it would take too much time; was too emotionally draining.
4.  I was just being selfish/lazy with my time.

Enough self-flagellation. Eventually an answer came to me in prayer. My papers reflected the evolution of my life. They documented each of the jobs I held and the various groups and movements that I have been committed to.

Just for fun – short diversion: My folders, file cabinets, and piles of paper fit an alphabet of categories: ANAWIM, FCGG, IOMLC, MISC, MLC-NA, MSJC, NACFLM, PACA, PPJ, UD, VOTF…
(If anyone wants to play the game, How Well Do I Know Susan Vogt, see how many of the above you can identify? Winner gets a can of alphabet soup.)

But, on to what spiritual lessons are hiding behind my papers and letters. As I ponder which papers to pitch and which to file better. I am realizing that this Lent I am taking an interior journey through my life. Part of the trip is letting go of earlier formative resources that may no longer be needed.

The more recent side trips are inner excursions into what is the purpose of my life? What gives it meaning? In the end, I am more than meetings, Zoom calls, social justice projects, and a pile of papers. It all comes down to loving creation – both human and nature. Some relationships are easy to love – like my family and those who think like me.
Others are more challenging – like those who are mean, think differently from me, or spiders. Maybe this Lent I will come to more peace with the latter? It’s all about unconditional love.

PS: To balance all this amorphous spiritual stuff, I bring myself down to earth by remembering that there are people seriously suffering right now on planet earth – not just on paper. I still must do something to ease the suffering of the hungry, the homeless, the unloved, the lonely. News of people suffering in Ukraine jar me back to the present and the need to act, not just pray, give money, and push paper.
What is mine to do? What is yours?