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40 days to refocus

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ash Wednesday is today, ushering in the 40-day season of Lenten preparation. The dessert table will suddenly be overburdened, as students give up sweets, and people may even start eating the mysterious fillets of “fish” in the dining hall.

For those who are not Catholic, this doesn’t have to be 40 days of skipping Chipotle on Fridays because your best friend won’t eat the meat. As winter continues to howl across the frozen fields of campus, seasonal affective disorder continues to spread through the dorms, cluttering the minds of students everywhere. I believe the time of Lent gives everyone — religious and non-religious — a reason to start mental spring cleaning a bit early.

Everyone has a core set of values that guides them day-by-day. However, these beliefs are often taken for granted and overshadowed by not-so-healthy habits. The Latin origin of the word value is valere, meaning “be strong.” Maintaining values strengthens our self-identity, and understanding who we are, in turn, helps us discern the role we play in the surrounding world. Lent provides a set time to re-establish these values.

Perhaps you value gratitude. For 40 days, consciously take the time to say “thank you” to the cleaning staff who will make our halls warm and clean for our return from spring break. Maybe you value generosity. Try out random acts of kindness, such as paying for the person behind you in a Dairy Queen drive-thru or calling your grandmother one afternoon. If you value individuality, take a break from social media and discern how much you rely on the opinions of others.

Forty days is a significant amount of time. A season-ending stress fracture in an athlete can heal in 42 days. Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days before receiving the Ten Commandments. At 40 days, an unborn child is beginning to develop ears, a nose and a mouth.

Over the course of 40 days, you can deepen your own self-understanding. You can shake out the clutter that has been gathering over the past few months and re-focus on your personal goals. Catholics across campus and throughout the world are taking this time to strengthen their core value of acting out of Christ-like love every day. In an atmosphere of support and solidarity, I encourage you to take the time to strengthen your personal core values as well.

What can you do in 40 days?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Kathryn Marshall

Kathryn Marshall, Saint Mary's College '17, is a Biology and Humanistic Studies double major. Follow Kathryn on Twitter @kmarshallSMC

Contact Kathryn