For the past several years, I sought to add something during Lent, rather than give up behaviors. Abstaining led to resentment, which seemed to be missing the point of the activity, while adding behaviors did not have the same effect. Inspired by one of our priest's sermons, I decided to do one extra thing for a person each day of Lent. Some of the activities included:
- Unloading the dishwasher, which is usually one of our daughter's duties,
- Taking out the neighbor's trashcan during trash pickup day in our neighborhood,
- Buying lunch for a stranger, and
- Penning hand-written notes to people, among other activities.
I have several conclusions from my 40 days of helping.
- While I had to intentionally plan or think about things at the beginning, near the end of the 40 days, I was doing extra things for people out of habit. Clearly some things, like buying someone's lunch, is an purposeful act. But, other things, like stopping to help someone on the side of the road or writing notes, became something I just wanted to do. Researchers suggest that habits are formed after 21 days, so I suppose the 40 days of Lent allowed plenty of time to make helping habitual.
- In many cases, the extra activity was appreciated. My younger daughter was more than willing to let me unload the dishwasher, and I received nice feedback on the note writing. In other cases, my good intentions turned out differently than I had expected. For instance, on one trash day, the wind picked up, knocking over my neighbor's trash can. They had known it would be windy, so had planned on taking out the trash immediately before the truck arrived, but as I took out the trash before work, they instead spent time picking up their debris that was all over the street. Luckily, they still speak to me.
- It is much easier for me to help than to be helped. This was made abundantly clear at one of the church services called Maundy Thursday. This service is the Thursday of Holy Week, and makes the occasion where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. At our parish, we have a service in the evening, and people can wash other parishioner's feet, and have theirs washed as well. I found washing the feet to be an act that was actually an honor, much like the extra helping hand I had tried to provide during Lent. On the other hand, having my feet washed was not comfortable, to say the least. It is hard to articulate how moving and humbling that experience really is.
So, what does all of this have to do with diversity in sport? There are actually a couple of points. First, it is easy for some (including me) to point out what "ought to be done" in relation to diversity and inclusion, but not actually put those perspectives into action. But, if I learned anything during Lent, it is that actions cannot only be endeavored, but they can become habitual. We can, through practice, be thoughtful and intentional about speaking up and positively affecting climate, and over time, these behaviors will become easier and easier.
Second, we need to be careful with our actions. What we might consider a well-intentioned act can actually negatively affect others. Just as I should have looked at the weather before taking out the neighbors' trashcan, we should think about how our actions will affect not only us, but also those we are seeking to positively impact.
Third, for some, it is easier to give help than to receive it. For others, it is just the opposite, as offering assistance to others or to causes is quite difficult. I suspect some introspection is helpful here, such that we thoughtfully consider where we are on the continuum and why are situated there.
I am always glad when Lent is complete, but this year, I will hopefully take my helping behaviors with me past the 40 day timespan.