Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, marked the start of the holiest period on the Christian calendar, the season of Lent.
The 40-day period normally observed by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists and, to a lesser extent Evangelicals, is a season of reflection which focuses on the time Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert and his sacrifice of dying for mankind.
Lent is traditionally marked with fasting, abstinence and prayer, as it is a time for believers to grow closer to God in preparation for the grand celebration of Easter.
Most believers tend to give up something until Lent ends. Adults put aside alcohol, coffee or smoking, meats, and some festivities, while children reluctantly part ways with chocolate, sweets, television or certain toys.
Reverend Jason Gordon, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Bridgetown, delivered a timely message yesterday as students and members of the public gathered at his church for the annual Ash Wednesday service.
He invited his congregants to “give up something, take up something and give away something”.
“Give up something [you like], like social media, chocolates and traditional stuff, or even give up bullying, or give up negative things in social media . . . . Take up a positive habit . . . give away something by remembering that we always have what we need and usually some extra and if we have extra, give away something to those who don’t have.”
Religious or not, this is sound advice Barbadians should take on board and not just for the next 40 days.
The first exhortation was to give up something. There is so much room for improvement in this fair land but neither time nor space would permit a complete list, so let’s focus on negative reoccurring patterns over the first two months of this year.
Immediately, the high number of road accidents stand out. There have been 11 fatalities just 61 days into 2017. Authorities have not cited the cause in each case, but every Barbadian driver and pedestrian must do better and abide by the rules of road safety, including no drinking and driving, adhering to road signs and rules, and no use of cellphones.
Government itself has the duty to maintain proper roads, and tighten laws to deter reckless driving and negative practices by pedestrians.
And then there is the number of senseless shootings. Last evening, two members of a football team were shot after an altercation. Today, another youngster was rushed to hospital after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds.
One shooting is one too many. Barbadians must seek to resolve their conflicts without the gun and, more so, to stand against those bent on disrupting society with their life of crime.
Bishop Gordon also instructed us to take up something.
Barbadians need to take up the habit of cleanliness often deemed as the right arm of Godliness.
There is way too much evidence on our roads, at our beaches, in our gullies, in Bridgetown, in our communities, and every other nook and cranny that citizens have little regard for how they dispose of their garbage.
Littering is downright nasty and we have to take up the simple principles of the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle – to cut down on the amount of waste we throw away.
Last, but not least, we are advised to give away something. Barbados needs to give away its failed approach to tackling problems. We have an economic crisis on our hands that is partly based on our reluctance to confront issues head on. Oftentimes, politics and sometimes bad decision-making get in the way. Our current dilemma calls for the island’s best minds to put aside their personal interests and issues to steer this country back to stability.
Lent is a good time to examine our lives, reflect on our priorities, meditate, pray and do better for all of Barbados.