The season of Lent began on February 18 with Ash Wednesday . Amanda, Ken, Heidi, and I carefully planned our observance, including services at 10am (on the Common) and at 1:30pm (at common art) . The focus: We don't have to be perfect. We are simply called to be good. Therefore, when we make mistakes, we can repent and try to be good again.
The 10am outdoor service took place at Brewer's Fountain on Boston Common. I was there, bundled up in a bright pink coat and mittens with a small container of ashes in my pocket. Since the blizzards, the fountain has been surrounded by a wall of snow that hid me from the rest of the Common. Therefore, the "service" entailed Mary (me), circling the fountain and wondering if anyone was going to come. Sometimes, I walked left around the fountain, sometimes I walked right around the fountain. The whole time, it was just me.
After waiting 15 minutes, it was time to find people. Why wait!
I walked to McDonalds and, look! There were "R", "G", and "S". I haven't seen them for a few weeks. We exchanged hugs, briefly talked about Ash Wednesday (S: "that stuff's not for me") and I hear how they pooled their money and stayed in a motel through the blizzard. We celebrated the joy of cable TV and a bathtub!
Turning to leave, "G" pulled me aside and said, "I'd like some ashes." I couldn't tell if he was embarrassed, or ashamed, or unsure ... But I put the cross on his forehead and said, "From dust you were made, and to dust you shall return." His shoulders relaxed and he was released. I don't know from what he was "released", but he left with his head held high.
Feeling proud that I FINALLY gave ashes to someone, I reapplied my mittens and kept walking. Look! There's "K". He's on his way to work and we walk together. He says, "Thank God for the snow. I'll have work every day this week! But what are you doing here, Pastor Mary?"
"It's Ash Wednesday . I'm sharing Ashes and reminding people that we don't have to be perfect. We just have to try and be good." K stops walking. "I need me some of that." So I take off my mittens, and make the sign on his forehead, and he departs for work smiling.
Next, I hear "V" and "L" yelling. "Mary, Mary!" They tell me they can't come to common art because they are keeping their anger in check by avoiding certain people. We laugh and joke about how many socks a person can wear at one time. Then talking seriously about avoiding temptation and violence. I offer them ashes, which they both accept. "We need all the help we can get."
This story happens over and over again. It's not what I had planned, but when we step beyond "the plan", glorious things happen.