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Lenten Reflection: Caring for Others

Junior Elizabeth St. Hilaire shared the following reflection about serving others during Lent. As we prepare to celebrate the resurrection at Easter, Lent is a time to consider sacrifice, prayer, charity, and helping others. 

You will never regret helping someone.

St. Hilaireelizabeth

Charity and almsgiving are pillars of this Lenten season. Because I am my
father’s daughter, this task requires a story (or two). When I was five years old, my entire world was my backyard, my neighbor’s backyard, and my kindergarten classroom. I had a total of three friends, two brothers, and two parents who were working on teaching me everything I needed to know about the world.

The next year I really branched out and joined a “big kid dance class” a whopping three miles from my house, and began to meet kids vastly different from myself—they had already done gymnastics and
knew how to do cartwheels, so we really couldn’t have been any more different in my eyes.
At this class, I met a girl named Katherine. I’m not sure where she is now, but she saw me very clearly struggling on the first day of class. She ran up to me in her cheetah print leggings, and said something along the lines of, “Hi I’m Katherine and you can’t do a cartwheel, but I can and I’ll show you,” and without another word, she demonstrated “proper” cartwheeling technique to me, and although I was far from being a the next Simone Biles, I learned.

There was nothing preventing her from watching my pathetic acrobatics, laughing to
herself, and moving on with her day, but she didn’t. She took the time out of her very busy six year-
old schedule to pause and share her gifts with me. Naturally, we became close friends
throughout the dance classes that year, but there was no reward for her spontaneous act of
kindness. She saw a need in her community, and she used her skills to start making a difference.

As my world continued to expand with new schools and activities, I met and learned from
more and more people. One of these people was a girl named Ava from the Twin Cities. When I was
seven, I was invited to Ava’s birthday party, and at the bottom of her invitation, her mother had written: “instead of a gift, please bring supplies for our local animal shelter including canned food, dry food, blankets, and more.” I later learned from her mother that this no gift policy was enacted after Ava’s mom went on a spring cleaning kick and couldn’t take any more clutter, but here’s the thing, Ava was a cool kid. She had her own fidget spinner and was everything, so when I saw her invitation, I immediately invested myself in my community’s animal shelter. It turns out we had one on the other side of town from where I live, so I begged my mom to go see the animals there.

I loved my visit so much that when my birthday rolled around later that year, I decided to do what Ava did, and ask for Humane Society donations instead of presents. I think my parents were really impressed with my mature decision to do this, but really I just wanted to go back and pet all the puppies, and I knew that if we had donations to drop off, my mom would let me come with. As elementary school students, Ava and I took two of our favorite things (birthday parties and animals) and combined them to help out the community in our own little way.

Over the next few years, my mom and I visited the Humane Society regularly and eventually adopted our second pet from there. I loved spending time with all of the animals on the floor and would not let us leave until I had at least said “hi” to every single one. It became one of my favorite places, so I submitted my volunteer application the week after my 14th birthday and I’ve been volunteering there on the weekends ever since.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the most glamorous volunteer job there is; it involves a ridiculously strong stomach and most of my time there isn’t spent just petting puppies, but I love it. In my own little way, I make the lives of the staff, the people adopting, and the animals better at the Humane Society, and that’s something I value.

I think that it’s easy to get swept up in the magnitude of the difference one makes. We idolize people who give massive sums of money to a charitable cause, or who who start their own charity with nothing but their bare hands. While these are no small feats, making a difference in someone’s life doesn’t require a grand gesture. Small acts of kindness are often written off as unimportant because they don’t receive as much recognition as larger ones do, but the entire point of almsgiving and charity is to give without the expectation of anything in return.

Now, there is an argument that true altruism or selflessness doesn’t exist on this Earth: no human completes a task that doesn’t benefit them in some way. My birthday party Humane Society donations are a case study for this idea, but this doesn’t invalidate the act of charity in the slightest bit. Improving the lives of others can still come before your own needs even if you gain something from the experience.

Every experience we have expands our world view just a little bit more, and I’m sure that we have all noticed things in our communities that we would like to improve. While some issues are larger than others, know that you do have an influence on those around you. A birthday party creates a volunteer creates a moment today where we can all reflect on how we can leave someone’s life a little better than we found it. It just requires you to look around at the aspects of your local and global communities that could use more of your attention.

Knowing that you are changing someone’s day for the better is a wonderful feeling to have, and I hope that you can all find a way to feel that every single day whether you are teaching your new friend a cartwheel or petting some super cute puppies.

You will never regret helping someone.

I’ll leave you with a sentiment from one of my favorite podcast hosts that I think is
important to think about this Lenten season: “Take care of yourself, and if you can, take care of
someone else.”

Have a great rest of your day.

Elizabeth ’25 is seen here during one of her many volunteer shifts at the Tri-County Humane Society. You can learn more about TCHS and volunteer opportunities by visiting their website.

Elizabeth St Hilaire And Tchs