Hey, let’s all lighten up this Lent

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Click . . . click . . . click.

We do this all day without a second thought. We flip a switch and our bedroom light goes on; another starts the coffee maker. We grab our cellphones and tablets that have been recharging overnight and hit the TV remote to catch the day’s weather.

We open the refrigerator to grab milk or juice and some butter for the bread that we just popped into the toaster. We boot up the computer to check our email or catch up on Facebook. Before leaving for work, we may even start some laundry or plug in the slow cooker.

Electricity is something that we take for granted. We only take notice of it when a storm knocks out the power. Even then, we’re such creatures of habit that we still find ourselves flicking the light switch — to no avail, of course — to help us find the flashlight that’s buried in the junk drawer.

How different would our lives be without electricity? For some idea, read the story on page 5 of this issue. Kevin McKlean, the president of a nonprofit in Florida, called an organization in Uganda one day to offer some LED lights to replace what he presumed were the inefficient incandescent bulbs that the people were using. Imagine his surprise when his Ugandan contact informed McKlean “they did not, in fact, even have electricity.”

It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? How, in 2017, can some 1.3 billion people around the world still not have electricity? Happily, McKlean’s company, Sun24, has a solution: solar lamps. And he’s using the Catholic Church to distribute them — to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Not only are these safer, brighter and cheaper by far than the kerosene lamps most people in poorer countries use. But the solar lamps are having a positive effect on both the environment and the students, who now have double the study time available to them.

We’re now a couple of days into Lent. In this season, we’re asked to become more conscious of things, like our sinfulness and destructive habits. But it’s also an opportunity to grow in awareness of our world and how we can positively influence it.

In contrast to the many stories about athletes behaving badly, listen to Bob Greene, a former columnist for the Chicago Tribune, share what he witnessed one cold night after a Chicago Bulls game. Superstar Michael Jordan headed through a large crowd of fans toward his car. As he opened the car door, Jordan saw a youngster in a wheelchair some 20 feet away. The boy’s neck was bent at an unnatural angle; his eyes could not look directly forward. Jordan walked over to the boy and knelt beside him. The youngster was so excited that he began to rise out of the wheelchair. Jordan comforted him, talked softly and put his arm around the boy’s frail shoulder.

The boy’s father tried to snap a picture, but the camera didn’t work. Jordan noticed. Without being asked, he continued to kneel at the boy’s side until the father was able to take the picture. Only then did he return to his car.

The boy’s eyes were glimmering with tears of joy. His dad was already replaying the moment with his son. If nothing good ever happens again for that little boy, he will always know that on one night Michael Jordan cared enough to include him in his world. (From Greene’s story, found in Father Brian Cavanaugh’s “More Sower’s Seeds: Second Planting.”)

As Michael Jordan showed, it doesn’t take much to make someone’s life better: Just be aware — notice — and then take some positive action.

In addition to the Rice Bowl, I’m adding another discipline this Lent: In light (pun intended) of my new awareness about the lack of electricity in so much of the world, I’m going to be especially conscious of not leaving lights on when they’re not in use. Secondly, I’m going to make a contribution to Sun24. As little as $8 will help two families receive solar lamps.

A goal of Lent is to make us more aware. This little prayer can serve as a great reminder: “Jesus, help my eyes to see/All the good you send to me./Jesus, help my ears to hear/Calls for help from far and near./Jesus, help my feet to go/In the way that you will show./Jesus, help my hands to do/All things loving, kind and true.
Jesus, may I helpful be/Growing every day like Thee. Amen.

During Lent, I’m gonna help people see the light. How about you?

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