Editor’s Note: Animal protection attorney Akisha Townsend Eaton, OFS, reflects on Pope Francis’ proposed Lenten practice of giving up indifference and how she has witnessed this practice being lived out by two of her friends.
I sometimes find it challenging to know what I’m being called to do during Lent. That’s why I was very excited to recently come across a “top 10 list” for this very purpose—taken from the teachings of Pope Francis.
One thing on the list to “give up” stood out to me in particular: indifference. As an imperfect human being, ridding myself completely of indifference seems like a daunting if not impossible task. Yet, I am encouraged to know that each day there are numerous opportunities to give up indifference that are right under my nose if I look for them. Part of my journey this Lent is to identify the teachable moments of letting go of indifference, delivered by the very people in my own life. Here are two great teachers so far:
Erica’s story: Rescuing the Sparrow
Last week, on her way to work, my friend Erica encountered an injured sparrow on the concrete sidewalk. In the hustle and bustle of the busy morning rush hour, several people stepped over the poor bird, some likely not even noticing her. Erica instinctively scooped up the sparrow, placing her in a quiet, dark box to rest in. Not long afterwards, the sparrow recovered, and was even able to fly away. Erica’s simple act of compassionate action likely not only saved the tiny bird, but possibly inspired others around her to take future action to alleviate suffering. I know she inspired me.
Through Scripture, we learn that even a small sparrow’s fall to the ground isn’t without significance to the Father. In life, we often don’t actually see fallen sparrows like Erica did. But we often fail to acknowledge the numerous opportunities to show compassion to others who have fallen in some way.
Who are the fallen in your life?
Jessica’s Story: Using dinners out to alleviate suffering
Recently, my friend Jessica shared one neat thing her family has been doing together. Using an app, they practice “track spending” in which they not only calculate their monthly expenses, but actually match the amount they spend on dining out and non-grocery purchases with donations to charity. In explaining this activity, Jessica stated, “pretty much everything we spend beyond housing, childcare, and food is a luxury. The least we can do is share the same with others.” An added challenge to Jessica’s plan—her family sets aside monthly donation amounts based on estimated expenses. If they go over, they add it to the donation amount and try to cut back the next month—a reminder of what is truly a want versus a need.
In the world where we often struggle to juggle individual responsibilities with meaningful service to others, Jessica’s example reminded me that it’s actually pretty simple to connect daily actions with positive impacts.
If we take the time to think about it, from the time we wake up until the time we call it a day, just about everything we do has an impact on someone else in the world. It is within our power to make life more livable for others through simple daily actions.
What routine activity can you transform or modify to make a difference for others?
Akisha Townsend Eaton, OFS is currently a Candidate for the Secular Franciscan Order. She is an animal protection attorney and lives in Maryland.
Featured image: adaptation of photo by Pixabay user jill111 – labeled for reuse