But in the new normal, this tradition also comes to a halt. With stay-at-home now a civic duty, our general Lenten movement may happen over calls and chats, online masses, or virtual retreats. A digital deluge of spiritual resets that are both privileged and necessary.
For isn’t the quiet Lenten reflection a privileged exercise? As lockdowns and losses become normalized, I wonder where salvation may be found, or even hope for abundance in the face of hardships. Yes, this is how it feels to be overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness.
Yet, this place is exactly where I want to begin my inward journey. My first step is gratitude – for everything like the relationships, in whatever form they flourish; my job, with the money that still comes in; and the quiet afternoons. But I believe there should be harder and more demanding steps, like the things we have to consistently do after Lent unfolds to Ordinary Times.
Would it be possible to make gratitude a habit, and become its main expression? How can I turn my privilege into a step instead of a refuge? A constant struggle of being and resisting from becoming a mere product of our times; I find this exercise difficult but necessary, at times even contradicting.
For what it’s worth, I share my tiny habits game plan for gratitude as service:
- Save space for the little things.
Remember the analogy about priorities? Imagine your life is an empty bottle. Fit the huge things (rocks) first before the smaller ones (sand and water). But sometimes, little things contain the nuances that shape the big things.
In my mind, the little things are the everyday things. Simple but easy to overlook. A thank you. A quick how are you. Maybe with practice, this habit can help us become more patient and attuned with each other.
- Plan big things on the horizon.
Hope invigorates in proportion of its promise. But as the horizon looms longer, this feeling falters without consistent action. This is why big plans – a future home, a prosperous retirement – usually start small. A weekly budget. Invest what you can spare.
For in breaking down the big things, you discover how much the little things matter. With every milestone, taking in a sense of gratitude for the progress keeps the hope alive. With a brighter outlook, you can be more present to those who matter most.
- Divest when needed.
Step back. I remember basketball players who know how to stop. Hit the brakes. Then make shot after shot that leads up to a win. So much chatter revolves on pushing the envelope or filling the proverbial bottle of life. What can you gain if you slow the game down? Rest. Focus. Even a reset.
The habit of emptying and minimizing both big and small things is also worthwhile. Divesting creates space for what matters now and in the future. Rid the clutter for head space. Make money work harder from a conservative to a more rewarding financial instrument. Try unloading to keep your bottle brimming with purpose.
- Share the wins.
Amidst the oversharing social media machine, we can often confuse brags as wins. It scares off opportunities, like finding a community. I discovered that knowing how to share your brightest moments takes practice. Finesse. Elegance. This is a way to connect and grow a habit, including gratitude.
I discovered this laidback community that celebrates small wins. I like it. An energy of gratitude anchors and feeds its dynamics. It’s a place to learn how to take in the wins – for you and for everyone else. To serve as a positive force for each other.
This Lent, a year after the pandemic hit, my reflection will end without any takeaway. I hope the plan can grow its own legs and travel to places I’ve been afraid to explore before.
But to keep its purpose grounded, I do want to leave with this wonderful piece from Arundhati Roy: “To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”