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Assistant Minister's Column

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    Somehow I found a Lenten practice that isn’t healthier, more environmentally friendly, cheap or simple. This year, partially as a way to make up for how much plastic I consumed at Mardi Gras, and partially in an attempt to see the world differently, I gave up consuming plastic for Lent. A small but significant note – I did not give up using plastic, just consuming and purchasing it. If I gave up using plastic, I couldn’t wear my shoes, drive my car or use a computer.

     At first it seemed a somewhat harmless practice. I knew I couldn’t buy certain things. I wouldn’t be able to buy new clothes, or new electronics, or things like that. But very quickly I realized the full extent of my fast. Because the packaging was either made of plastic or at least contained some amount of it, most foods and toiletries were off the table (pardon the pun). I couldn't buy most processed foods, breads and even produce.

    To be successful I had to exert a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. Here’s what I mean: I couldn’t buy cereal or grains or nuts because those all come in plastic. The only way I could get them was from the bulk bins. I brought my containers from home, but I still wasn’t plastic-free. I had to pretend that the items in the bulk bins weren’t shipped and stored in large plastic bags. I had to pretend that those little produce stickers on most fruits weren’t plastic. I pretended that canned foods weren’t lined with plastic, and that the shipments of the few foods I could find plastic-free weren’t shipped on pallets wrapped in plastic.

    This practice didn’t necessarily guarantee me a lighter environmental footprint. Another example: I have a soda stream at home. But when the cartridge ran out, I couldn’t exchange it for a new one because the little cap on the top was plastic. Instead, during the 6 weeks of Lent, I bought at least 10 boxes of canned sparkling water – 120 aluminum cans all because I didn’t buy something that had one square inch of plastic.

    If the practice of Lent is intended to clear out your life – and by proxy your cabinets because I was forced to use up some of my oldest and most forgotten canned foods – and if Lent is supposed to make you more aware of the world you live in, then I can unequivocally say it was a success. If Lent is supposed to make you ecstatic for Easter, then it did. This practice didn't make me avoid plastic all together. I don't plan on giving it up. Rather, it made me aware of how plastic has infiltrated every part of my life.

    I don’t know what your spiritual practice for Lent was (or if you had one). I don’t know what your day to day spiritual practices are. I hope that whatever they are, they help you see the world differently. I hope they help you clear out your spiritual cabinets and find the dustiest and grimiest cans and boxes of yourself that you forgot were back there. I hope you can clear out whatever clutter is keeping you from being the blessing to this world you were born to be.