What Are You Giving for Lent?

Last spring I decided that I would give up slave-made chocolate and I invited other people to join me. It happened to be around Ash Wednesday, so it became a sort of Lenten observation, and a number of friends, family and readers jumped on board.

Now it has been a year. A whole year! It’s been a year since I purchased Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (my favorite) or ordered chocolate cheesecake at a restaurant. And I know that’s true for a few of you reading this as well who have sent me pictures of slave-free desserts, and blogged from cocoa plantations, and humored my love for finding new fair trade brands.

And so last spring was an easy Lent. While other folks were denying themselves through meat, coffee and sugar, I was living out the film Chocolat by gorging myself on every brand of fair and ethically traded chocolate I could find. It was a spiritual experience, of sorts, but certainly not because I planned for it to be.

I underestimated how meaningful it would become to make this choice – a choice that affects other people’s bodies as well as my own. Every time I eat food grown and sold in ways that condemn injustice, I am building up my own body with more and more compassion.

Over the months that followed Easter last year I learned about atrocities caused by the banana industry, about the coffee also grown by slaves on cocoa plantations in West Africa, and the rampant spread of AIDS in impoverished tea farming communities. Our pantry looks very different today than it looked a year ago.

And as Lent comes back around, I can’t help but be a little reminiscent about the journey.

This year I’m hoping to observe Lent in a way that provides some healing from a very difficult battle with seasonal affective disorder. It falls at the wrong time of year for me – after overcoming such a tough winter, self-denial is not on the top of my to-do list. I am giving up a few things, and taking on a few as well in a forced embrace of a better, sun-filled season. But I won’t be giving up chocolate, because eating chocolate has become much more in our home than enjoying an occasional sweet. It has become a tangible, year-long Lent. A fasting from at least one injustice.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (Isa. 58:6)

I encourage any readers who also observe Lent to consider:

Christians claim to celebrate through the Easter season a person who sacrificed his life for the salvation of many. So how can Lenten sacrifices somehow offer salvation to many as well? We are giving up for Lent, but what will we be giving?

Join in!

Are you observing Lent this year? What, if anything, are you giving up?

How could the observation of Lent offer relief or salvation to people in need?

5 Responses to “What Are You Giving for Lent?”
  1. luwakcoffe says:

    what a wonderfull food. what ever the celebration,… if there are chocolate the celebration is great!! 😀

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  2. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are my absolute favorite. For Christmas, my little boy (via my wife) got me an entire box of 36 of them. I think I ate through them all in the space of a week. I could not imagine giving those up. I’d give up breathing first. Of course, until reading this post I had no idea that this was slave-made chocolate and I am now feeling retroactively guilty for 21 steady years of Reese’s consumption.

    • Joanna says:

      You might say retroactive guilt is appropriate for Ash Wednesday, but it’s not! No shame here. There are too many battles for one person to fight them all.

      And whether or not you give up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, you might also want to try Newman’s Own peanut butter cups, which are slave-free. They are very different from Reese’s – not as sweet. I tried them and hated them at first, but now I love them.

      Sadly, Hershey’s, which makes Reese’s, is the chocolate company least willing to comply with anti-slavery measures or begin a process of making sure their chocolate becomes completely slave-free in the next few years. I am becoming impatient with them, because I miss my favorites.

  3. Darrell says:

    I plan to renew my efforts to educate people about the cause of food riots around the world which is the same cause pushing millions to the brink of starvation and beyond. To the average American a 20% increase in the cost of food is bad but survivable. To those who subsist on a little rice and bread each day it might not be. That is no sacrifice for me but like chocalate for you its a labor of love.

  4. Mary says:

    I really appreciate Darrell’s view on this, and Joanna’s too. I want to do more practical work on my own habits this spring. Thank you.

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