His name is Mitch. He is married and working on a dairy farm near Indianapolis. We were introduced by another student. They knew each other from their summers as leaders at Boy Scout Camp. I baptized him at the Episcopal Center @ UGA early in his time as a student.
Each year after Mitch's baptism he became more and more important to the student community as a leader and in a more meaningful way, as a prophet.
He always asked really good questions. He always wanted things not to just make sense but for the end result of any decision to be just and fair.
Mitch taught me how to "do Lent."
You may already know that I'm not inclined to work too hard on giving things up for Lent. I've so seldom found "a thing" that once given up didn't return into my life and in a few cases trivialize all that my Lenten discipline had intended. Every time I've given up a food or confection -- coffee and chocolate come to mind -- I've binged on those same items as soon as the egg hunts are started.
For me Lent is better used to grow into more prayer, more study, more of those things that help me in my life of faith. So I take on things for Lent that are most often churchy and that require a continued commitment once the forty days are over.
What I learned from Mitch was that my Lenten disciplines could -- perhaps should -- help make the world a better place. At the very least I should learn something from them.
The lessons I learned from Mitch started the Lent he decided to go bare-footed. Yes in the dead of a fairly intense and lingering winter Mitch took his shoes off.
He made some reasonable adjustments, one was to leave a pair of shoes at his work place so that he could continue his employment. They would have fired him otherwise.
He made a concession to the group on those few occasions when we decided to meet together at a restaurant or bar. That is from where the name Theolatte´ came. We would meet at an Athens coffeeshop and discuss our spiritual lives and the issues of the days.
I gave him a pair of flip flops that he could carry in his book bag so he could enter when the sign said, "No shirt? No shoes? No service."
We learned so much as a community from Mitch's bare feet. Especially when we saw one of Athens' homeless in the same state, not by choice.
The next year Mitch kept all his garbage to himself.
If a food item came in a bag or a disposable container he carried that refuse with him for the rest of the forty days. Thank goodness he learned how to minimize his exposure especially to the waste generated by fast food restaurants and super markets.
Think of how many ketchup packets are thrown away unopened!
By the end of the season he had learned to avoid many places and customs we as quintessential consumers never second guessed.
Mitch's Lent was for Mitch AND because he did not hide his efforts was for us as well. We learned so much from his bare feet and stuffed sack.
Can our Lenten disciplines teach us as much?