Whether it’s chocolate, red meat, Facebook or your favorite TV shows, there may be something you’ve abstained from enjoying for the past several weeks. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, leading up to Easter, the season of Lent offers the opportunity to test your self discipline and willingness to sacrifice.

From the smallest of pleasures such as snacking on KitKats to deeper habits such as allowing circumstances completely out of your control to ruin your day, giving up these things is meant to offer more time in religious reflection and self improvement.

Admittedly, my intention of giving back more often didn’t add up much more than what I’ve normally done volunteer-wise the past year. What I gave up, though, did offer more perspective on how valuable time is.

About this time last year, we all gave up a lot and at some points, some of us may have just wanted to give up all together, given the circumstances completely out of anyone’s control.

Stressful days and weeks are definitely incentives to rush home, turn off the world and unwind. About this time last year, circumstances completely out of anyone’s control made us do just that.

Growing up, being stuck inside my bedroom for a weekend felt like a prison sentence if there were bikes or skateboards to ride or games of driveway basketball or backyard football, golf or baseball happening in the neighborhood.

Sure, I’ve got vivid memories of hours of playing Nintendo and watching “Yo! MTV Raps” on Saturday nights, but my energy level made me still want to be outside roaming those neighborhood streets.

High school and college were no different if there was a parking lot to hang out in or just an excuse to waste gas riding around to see if anybody else was out in town.

Giving up those freedoms was tough.

Years later, giving up precious Saturdays for obligations closer to home can sometimes be tough but at least learning to sacrifice helps ease that pain.

Big plans sometimes change, and there are certain opportunities during the year you don’t get back for 12 months. The more we get into a habit of sacrifice, the easier it is to stop yourself from pouting and tell yourself, “That will just make it even better next year.”

Even at my age – and probably still in years to come, I sometimes need that.

As a teenager, when the freedom of going to visit other towns was completely out of my control, it would set my nerves afire when I would be told something like, “Well, Columbus has been there for years, so it’ll still be there when we do go.”

In the past several years, I’ve even said, “Well, those rock formations have been there for tens of thousands of years, so they should be there whenever we can go,” in reference to rescheduled trips to Tishomingo State Park.

Being a homebody isn’t bad, especially when you can find ways to be productive when you’re closer to home.

Again, my grand intentions of giving back didn’t pan out in the ways of picking up roadside litter and finding ways of helping people out more, but why should those opportunities ever be limited to just Lent?

There’s a difference in servitude and serving yourself and as selfish as we all are with our time, it doesn’t take much of it to make a deep impact to help out someone or something.

Even though you’re just a few days away from indulging in whatever you did without for the past six and a half, I hope that giving it up gave you a deeper understanding that will help you and others out for a long time to come.

Ray Van Dusen is the managing editor of the Monroe Journal. He can be reached at ray.vandusen@journalinc.com.

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