The two cups of coffee you give up each day in March and April will help a child learn to read.
Great headline! If I actually drank coffee I’d be sold. Likewise those TV ads I remember from my childhood: “For less than a cup of coffee a day, you can change Marli’s life.” Cue African music and images of beaming, no-longer malnourished child. Extraordinary, I always thought. Let’s take two!
And it is astonishing what remarkable changes can be brought about through the injection of sums of money that here in Australia seem microscopic. Intelligent, hard working people all over the world, given the right resources, bring about massive changes in their circumstances. They learn to read. They create jobs. They thrive. There are other challenges to overcome, but there’s no denying that material resources make a huge difference.
So here’s a familiar pitch: for the next forty days, UnitingWorld’s Lent Event encourages you to bring your own lunch to work, give up takeaway on the weekend, forego your two cups of coffee or even leave your car at home on weekdays. In return, we’ll inject the money you save into a midwife training program in South Sudan, projects that create change for women in the Pacific and peace initiatives overcoming violence and conflict in Papua New Guinea. Lives will be changed.
And your job? The coffee.
Or is it?
I have a hunch that many of us are tiring of the ‘one click’ approach to ‘changing the world’. We ‘like’ the catchy meme. We share and sign the petition. We give up the cup a day. But deep down, we wonder whether there might be something more to it.
Lent Event is about fundraising. Make no mistake about it, the money you donate makes a huge difference and our partners can’t do without it. But Lent Event is also about deep, thoughtful engagement. And that’s because deep, thoughtful engagement – with God, ourselves and others – is what actually makes a meaningful difference to individual lives and through them, to this planet.
There’s no quick fix to entrenched problems like greed and hoarding and inequality and racism. When Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, he didn’t return with a ‘cup of coffee a day’ solution. Footsore and hungry, he returned to the cross.
Lent offers us the opportunity to draw aside to reflect and simplify our minds, hearts and lives. It’s a time to wrestle with ourselves and all that we’d like to be. We’re called both to give up and to take up – jettisoning the stones that are weighing us down, adding to our kits the virtues that give us wings. Lent might be a tradition of the church but something of it is present in the hearts of anyone who ever longed for time out, for the elusive ‘perfect holiday’, for the New Year’s Resolution they actually saw through. It’s present wherever people are serious about engaging themselves and others for deep, abiding change.
Activists, policy makers, development specialists, parents, preachers, children… we all know the world isn’t the way we want it to be. And as countless wise men and women have taught, change begins with us.
This Lent, we invite you on a journey. You can check out resources for prayer and worship, a great Bible study series and stories of how your help makes a difference on our website. We want you to know that you’re part of a movement of people worldwide who, with varying degrees of access to the resources we have at our fingertips, are working toward peace and justice, love and equality.
Coffee will not change the world. But a thoughtful, committed, generous community of those who keep the faith and work with hope and love?
Well, we very well might.
Get involved with Lent Event here. It runs from March 5 through to April 11 2014.