This year it was not buying food in big box stores among other things.
Lent, the six weeks before Easter, has been for us a time to give something up to appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made. To be clear, what we give up in no way compares to the cost of the cross, but it has been a tradition we’ve done most years of our over 30 years of marriage. Some years it was one or two of these things: coffee, alcohol, listening to car radio, bacon, corn or potato chips, wearing sunglasses or the traditional chocolate.
This year I gave up social media (thanks for that idea Pastor Mary), mostly Facebook, and blogging. I gave up some other things, you know just in case one of the biggies didn’t make, but social media was my big thing and along with Suzanne not buying our foodstuffs in the big box stores. Last year we gave up buying imported food, which became problematic with we had visitors (which we loved having) but didn’t want the “fast” to forced on them. No problem, our guests had not given up buying imported food, so we took them to the big box store and let them “buy”. Ok, not in the spirit of a Lenten fast, but in the Muslim tradition travelers are exempt from the Ramadan fast, could their Christian friends not borrow that exemption too?
We like the Lenten fast because it gives us a chance to re-examine our lives and explore a much longer experiment than a doomed new years resolution. When we gave up foreign food, we took look a look at the food choices we were making, imported rice, imported chicken, imported wheat flour, imported vegetables… It also forced us to try harder to buy local, and that introduced me to Sarah, my Kitase vegetable market lady.
A few towns over on the main road is Kitase, where the “aggressive fruit market ladies reside.” Stop your car anywhere near the Kitase intersection, and 3-5 market ladies will hurtle their bodies (and fruit) toward your car with mangos, papaya, bananas, oranges, tangerines rolling off their heads. If your window happens to be open, fruits of all kinds are pushed on your lap the moment you stop and demands for money will be shouted. Suzanne hates this place; me, I do almost all our vegetable shopping here and have developed a nice friendship with Sarah. I pull up and the fruit sellers come running until they see it is me, and then they turn and look for another
Ten years ago I had a friendship with a veg. market woman when we lived in Accra. We became such good friends that the neighborhood called her my “second wife.” Suzanne was a great sport, greeting Leeba as she walked home from work with “and how is our husband today?”.
Today, she is married with children but before she took that big step, she called me in the states to ask for my blessing and say good-bye. It would no longer be appropriate for a Muslim wife and a foreign man to be friends.
Sarah (no picture yet) is my fourth attempt at a long-term relationship with a veg market woman. I thought I had made a connection a few years ago near the ACP Junction, but she was a hugger, and I mean a deep, bone crushing kind of hugger. I couldn’t abide by that: I am NOT a hugger. A few weeks ago when I bought a melon from her, I could tell she remembered me, but I kept a safe distance. She stepped forward, I stepped back staying well out of hug-capturing range.
So Sarah is a gift from last year’s Lenten fast, along with a deeper awareness of where our food comes from, and the relationships that can be made when buying local.
Sometimes we revert immediately on Easter, like eating bacon on Easter morning with a good cup o’joe (neither of which we gave up this year). Other years the six-week practice changes us for the good. I thought I would miss Facebook more than I did, and now in the march toward Pentecost, I find my Facebook feed less appealing. Suzanne is my Facebook feed, reading to me from it at night, showing me pictures, or asking me to post pictures from out life.
Sometimes we change for Lent, sometimes Lent is a lasting change in us.