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40 ways to pay it forward this Lent

calendar13 February 2018

Maisie Pollard's avatar Maisie Pollard

40 ways to pay it forward this Lent

This year, Lent begins on 14 February and lasts until 29 March and, as ever, people everywhere will view this as a time to give something up. It’s great, of course, to stretch yourself to go without a luxury for 40 days – chocolate, unhealthy snacks or alcohol for example – but has the season become too much about this and less about its Christian roots? This Lent, let’s give ourselves a different kind of challenge: to give back. By paying it forward to the community and people around us rather than focusing inwardly, Lent has the power to make a huge difference. We’ve compiled 40 ways to do just that – one for each day.

  1. Start by reading an extract from the Bible daily to help focus your mind on others. 'Love your neighbour as yourself', says Mark 12:31. Christian Aid offers free daily Bible readings online.
  2. Sacrifice some time out of your day to call someone who you know you should talk to more often, ask how they are and offer a listening ear.
  3. Make a pledge to help the homeless. If you see someone sleeping rough, you could offer to buy them their lunch. Just giving them the time of day can be so valuable.
  4. Make the choice to pray for someone. You don’t necessarily have to pray for them in person or over the phone, you could just take five minutes to pray for them while you’re on your own or even on the go!
  5. Write to someone to say why you appreciate him or her and what you find great about them too. You could even include a Bible quote to give them encouragement and set them up for their day. This is a really simple act of kindness that could make a whole lot of difference!
  6. Contribute to charity. You could give financially through monthly donations or give a one-off donation if you’d prefer. Or why not go all out and start planning a sponsored event in aid of your favourite charity?
  7. Apply to volunteer within a charity shop or, if this isn’t feasible, gather some unused clothes and items and take them down to your local charity shop. They always need new stock and it’s a simple way to help out and get rid of some clutter too.
  8. Additionally, clothes banks and homeless shelters always need donations. Find out what’s in your area and donate any clothes you no longer need – warm items like coats, gloves and scarves are especially useful.
  9. Help to clean the community. If there are no local litter clean-ups in your area, you could offer a helping hand to someone in need with their cleaning. This might be an elderly relative or a friend who’s rushed off their feet.
  10. Give compliments! Make a conscious effort to say something nice to someone (or multiple people) throughout your day. This doesn’t cost you a penny and can make a difference to their mood and yours.
  11. Offer to help out in your local church. You could offer to join the welcome or worship team or to make tea and coffee after church services.
  12. Make a stranger’s day. Ask that cashier who always serves you in the supermarket how their day is going. Thank them and show them they’re valued. They might not hear it very often. When you receive good customer service, make sure you let the employee’s manager know so that their hard work is recognised.
  13. Give an anonymous donation to someone’s JustGiving sponsorship page. Support a good cause, help out a friend, and do it selflessly.
  14. Alternatively, set up your own fundraising page for that sponsored event you started planning. Share it on social media and drum up support.
  15. Talk to someone you haven’t heard from in a while. Ask how they are and what they’ve been doing since you last spoke with them. You could make a commitment to yourself to take more time to check in with them from now on.
  16. Ask to join your church’s prayer chain to ensure that those in need in your community get the support they need. If your church doesn’t have one, why not speak to the leader about setting one up?
  17. A creative idea is to put together a care hamper for someone in need or in hospital. It could be for someone you know or even for a stranger. You could include things like candles, magazines or toys. Why not pop in a ‘thinking of you’ card containing your favourite Bible quote to help lift up someone during a difficult time? Then you just need to drop by the hospital and speak to someone on reception about dropping off your gift.
  18. If you see that there is a particular need in your local community, write to your local MP and pray that the issue will be resolved.
  19. Calling all animal lovers! Take time out of your day to donate pet food or bedding to your local animal shelter or rescue. Generosity isn’t just exclusive for humans!
  20. Plan to cut down on your waste to help the environment. Get savvy on recycling by checking you local council’s webpage to see what can and can’t be recycled in your area. Be conscious of the waste you’re producing and start making some simple swaps. You’ll be contributing to preserving the planet one small step at a time.
  21. If you go to the supermarket and get a BOGOF deal, give away the free one! This is a simple but generous act of kindness. Find your local food bank and donate it there.
  22. Offer to take someone who lives alone for a coffee or for lunch. For a cheaper option, get the kettle on and invite them to your house instead.
  23. When you go out for a meal, leave a tip if you wouldn’t normally. It doesn’t have to be big, but it’s an easy way to say thank you when you receive great service.
  24. Another food-related act of generosity is to cook a meal for some friends or loved ones. This is a simple idea but a great act of giving (and gives you an excuse to eat your favourite foods!)
  25. Communication is key! Try something new and learn a few phrases in sign language or another language to reach people who you wouldn’t usually be able to fully communicate with. It’s a valuable skill and even learning simple phrases like ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’ can make people in your community feel included.
  26. Take ten minutes out of your day to pray for issues that may not be as close to home – current issues like migration, climate change and endangered animals all need the power of prayer.
  27. Offer to pray for someone one on one. Ask them if they feel comfortable to share what’s going on in their life, and give it all to God.
  28. Offer to wash something for a family member. Whether it’s the laundry or the car, it’s an act of service that won’t go unnoticed.
  29. Leave an anonymous note or gift for someone to show how much they are appreciated.
  30. If you go to a coffee shop or takeaway, you could leave money behind the till and pay for the next person’s order.
  31. Share your favourite Bible quote with your friends. Be courageous and post it on social media, explaining why it has an impact on you. You never know, it just might impact upon someone else too!
  32. Get some sticky notes, write messages of truth or Bible quotes on them, and stick them where someone will see them. It could be around the house or on a colleague’s desk. This will remind them how much they mean to not only you, but to God as well.
  33. One very simple task – smile! Smile as much as you can. It releases endorphins in your brain and will improve your day and the day of those around you.
  34. Get a trolley from a supermarket and, once you put it back, leave the pound in it. This is such a simple way to give a small act of kindness.
  35. Make something that you could share with your friends – baking a cake to take into work is a way to show you care that few people are likely to not enjoy.
  36. Invest in Fairtrade products during your weekly shop.
  37. Support smaller, local shops rather than bigger supermarkets.
  38. Make a list of people and situations that need prayer and make sure you pray for them!
  39. Buy a copy of the Bible and give it to somebody you know or leave it for a stranger to find (pray that God puts it in the hands of someone who really needs it).
  40. Reflect on all the amazing, selfless things you’ve done over the last few weeks. Choose a few that made a real difference or that you particularly enjoyed, then resolve to continue doing them into the future.
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