Lent begins on Wednesday. I have this horrible feeling that it will be overshadowed by further snow removal. I hope I am not unsympathetic to people who have been overwhelmed by the double blizzard of 2010. But I am moved even more by the realization that we might “survive” rather than live.
I got thinking about this as I read about the Lt. Gov. of South Carolina’s quote. He’s been all over the news for saying that feeding the poor is like feeding stray animals. It just encourages them to breed. When the economy goes poorly, people often hunker down and stop caring for the poor. They will support a politician who blames the poor for their poverty and tells people they need to protect their own share of the pie. The added cliché goes something like, “We certainly should not give more pie to the government to waste on stray people – it’ll breed more of them!”
This defensiveness is a basic instinct of fearful people. When the big snow comes (or the big economic avalanche) we go into survival mode — and survival mode is generally not reaching out to connect or reaching out to help. Survival is hunkering down and conserving — hide your stuff from thieves; protect what you’ve got.
I experienced a small example of this over our own snow removal. We have four garages that share a common driveway behind our house. One of my neighbors did not shovel out the area in front of his garage door after the first big now. This was not too surprising, since he does not own a car. When we and the other neighbors were shoveling out after the second snow, we piled shovelfuls in front of the car-less neighbor’s door. He was upset when he saw the pile, since he wanted to park a rental car in the driveway. One of the neighbors was upset back – “You didn’t help shovel the whole driveway! Get involved and we’ll apologize.” It was the language of survival. She blamed him for his own poverty. His poor health and other issues didn’t change her mind. He didn’t do his share and now he wanted pie!
I was honestly in a dilemma. I thought I would get in trouble if I shoveled off the snow we’d piled up — it was the principle of the thing! I let it go overnight and then thought the Lord wanted me to make him a spot. It took me a half an hour of secret digging. It was not much effort, but it was not effort required by neighborhood justice. I had to risk getting into trouble.
All this makes me wonder if Lent will be ignored this year because we’re too busy surviving the way we do when we are not living. The poor will be too busy fighting for a parking space and the hard-working people will be making sure their pie is not stolen and the rich will be doing whatever the rich do. Nothing will require us to reach out and connect with God or reach out to love like Jesus. And the Lord’s promise of something else will slip onto the calendar without much notice.