The spiritual and personal benefits of fasting are multiplied when our action goes beyond ourselves. When we give up something for Lent, we are encouraged to share the money saved with those in need. The price of a Starbucks coffee or two a day can quickly add up to a decent charitable donation.
Here in Canada, The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has an annual Share Lent program. The goal of the program is to raise awareness in addition to raising funds for social justice projects around the world. When our children were young, calendars were distributed in catechism classes. Simple daily actions were attached to small donations that encouraged families to reflect on the economic imbalances in our world. For example, ponder the reality of having to walk miles to haul water then put a dollar in the Share Lent box for each faucet you have in your house. It was simple, but more meaningful than mindlessly writing a cheque. These Solidarity calendars are still being produced.
CCODP also sponsors a THINKfast for young people. World Vision has a similar program called 30 Hour Famine. Our children participated in these programs through our local high school and church. Participants become aware of the reality of hunger around the world by feeling hunger themselves. They raise funds through sponsorship of their efforts. Activities are planned around the clock to educate them about global justice issues.
We have the luxury to choose to fast. For others it is a daily reality. Our small gestures of `giving up` must be used to help those who don`t have this choice.