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by Susan Russell

Last year my Facebook status on Ash Wednesday read: “Wishing you a journey through Lent instead of a commute to Easter.” It got 133 comments – which I took as a sign that I was not alone in finding that a challenge.

You can’t live in Southern California and not know what it feels like to travel a familiar road without really “journeying.” When I was a new deacon I served up at St. Mark’s in Altadena — and I lived in Huntington Beach. I remember how easy it was to suddenly look up and realize I was in Duarte … and wonder what happened to Whittier. That’s not a journey: that’s a commute.

Because I don’t want to suddenly look up and realize it’s Easter and wonder what happened to Lent, I’ve resolved to take steps to claim these forty days as a journey through Lent and not settle for a commute to Easter.

And that’s a lot easier said than done.

But here’s just one small way I’ve chosen to journey rather than commute – and that’s by changing my literal commute to work every day. I’m blessed to live in west Altadena so my commute each day to All Saints is blessedly short. But rather than jumping on the 210 east and zipping down Walnut to the parking garage, I’ve taken – during Lent – to using the surface street option. East on Woodbury and south on Los Robles.

And I’ve taken to choosing silence and mindfulness over breaking news or music – as much as I love both breaking news and music.

It may seem a ridiculously small thing to “give up for Lent” … but the impact has already been significant.

As I drive to work I’m mindful of my neighbors and my neighborhood. The grandma wrangling four children across the crosswalk at Lincoln and Woodbury to get them to school on time calls me to give thanks for the gift of family, of the children who are our future and of the teachers who mentor and nurture them.

The folks lined up at Friends in Deed on the corner of Washington and Los Robles for food distribution challenge me to remember how much deep need there is in the midst of this city of great plenty and to recognize with deep gratitude those who exercise ministries of proximity and care for the hungry and homeless.

The canopy of trees covering so much of Los Robles remind me of both the abundant beauty and fragile vulnerability of this planet we steward – and to be both mindful and responsive to the challenges of climate justice.

The cohort of Armenian limo drivers gathered for their morning confab on the sidewalk in front of the Westin Hotel are an icon of both the dignity of work and the challenge of economic justice in this nation where some have so much and others work so hard for so little.

It’s only 4.4 miles from my driveway to my parking space in the All Saints parking garage. But for Lent at least it has become a 4.4 mile journey … not a 4.4 mile commute.

What can you do to choose a journey to Lent over a commute to Easter?

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