Give, not Give Up, this Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season in the Christian church leading up to Easter. As a child, I would give up sweets and so would my friends. But through the years instead of giving up and seeing this time of year as doing without for 40 days, I changed it. I decided to do something positive, simple tasks, like smiling more, helping others if I see they need it. I’m not speaking just about family but strangers, those I meet in the supermarket, or other public places, maybe the park. Have you seen a mother struggling with a toddler and a buggy? Have you asked her if she needs help to lift it up the steps to the library, train/bus platform?

So as this Lenten season begins it got me thinking more. How can we bring this side of life, the positive, the good in us out, and show respect for others, through our writing? Which led me to my characters.

Do your characters in your novels/stories have manners? I am a big believer in saying thank you to those who help me or show me kindness. When writing dialogue, do you include the words please and thank you where appropriate? Would your character hold the door open for those following them out the exit or entering the building? What about the older person trying to manage their shopping on the bus, give them their seat?

I guess what I’m saying is, today’s world is very fast and exclusive, instead of being inclusive and watching out for others. Every day we read of rising crime, attacks on people, violence etc. and often the films, the TV series, the video games are cited as being an influence. So if we influence people through these violent vicious nasty programmes can we not try to influence people by making our characters do nice things for each other? I know we must have our baddie, I’m not talking about our work being all sugar and sweet, but a simple thing like having a character say, “Pass me the coffee please,” or have your detective hold the door as he goes in to the police station while he’s thinking of his latest case. Simple gestures.

Maybe I sound daft, maybe I am daft, but it’s how I feel this Ash Wednesday. If enough of us show kindness and helpfulness, surely it can rub off on more and more. After all, a smile is the most contagious thing ever. So smile and make someone else feel good as well as yourself.

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