By: Sandy Churchill
Last week, my 11 year-old son Tim helped me create a traditional salt dough “crown of thorns” for the season of Lent. The project was for our CCD religious education class, but the lessons can extend to each of us as a life lesson.
In the spirit of the Lenten season leading up to Easter, Tim helped me poke toothpick “thorns” into the dough crown before it was baked about 90 minutes in the oven. Removal of the thorns represents good deeds—kind actions, uplifting words, or acts of service—which counter the pain of the thorn and remove some of Christ’s suffering. As it was passed student to student, each fifth grader in the class spent a moment considering his or her words and actions over the previous week and could remove a “thorn” from the crown.
The exercise proved a wonderful reminder to spend a few moments at the end of each day to contemplate these “thorns” that we can remove with our patience, compassion, energy, and generosity of time, talent, and treasure. In teaching my son and his classmates, I was reminded of the need to ask myself at the end of the day, “What thorns did I remove today?” Indeed, as I lay down to sleep, can I rest knowing I did something or said something to make someone’s day brighter, soothe another’s worries, or lighten another’s burden? Can I make it a daily practice, well beyond the Lenten season, to be a thorn-remover each and every day?
This lesson tied in with the “ripple effect” we had discussed the prior week—how each deed has a “ripple,” positive or negative, that impacts others in a chain-reaction style. I listened, as each child shared a “thorn remover”… one student cheered up a sad friend, another held the door for a line of students, a third helped his mom unload groceries from the car. A few students noticed the immediate “ripple” as the receiver of the good deed, in turn, did something nice for someone else right away (complimented another student, helped a sibling, etc.) The lesson was about making a difference, paying it forward, and the reminder that not only is no action or gesture insignificant but also that the “chain reaction” or ripple effect of our words and deeds have tremendous power.
Once again, the lesson was a reminder for my husband and for me, co-teachers in the class, that our words and actions can remove the pain of evil and suffering in the world one small gesture at a time. We may live in a world where disasters plague the news and wartime horrors frequent our airwaves; but we can make a difference, slow and steady like the beloved tortoise, one step at a time. And that is a Lenten lesson worth embracing and a crown worth donning.