A Short Story for Lent
Joyce T. Lang
The Old Lady sat down at her desk and began going through her mail that had
accumulated over the past week. Bills! My Goodness! She had just paid them!
But, there they were. The telephone bill. The water bill. The utility bill.
She checked the date on them in order to make sure her eyes, as they often
did lately, were not deceiving her She was going to have to make that
appointment with the ophthalmologist soon. But, no! It was not her failing
eyesight. The dates on the bills WERE January. January 2005.
“It just can’t be,” the Old Lady thought. “Why land sakes alive! It was just
Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was just New Year’s Day. Let’s see. Wasn’t
that about last weekend? The weekend before that one?” She looked at the
dates on the bills again to make sure she was not mistaken. Nope! They
remained the same… January 2005.
As she turned the page on her desk calendar her eyes caught a specific date.
The Old lady panicked. February 9th., Ash Wednesday! “It can’t be that time
again,” she thought. “That would make Easter the, uh…” She turned the page
to March. The date for Easter Sunday was March 27th.
Sometimes the Old Lady felt so alone. It seems time was passing her by. It
was going by so fast. All of her plans… all of her dreams seemed to be
slipping away. Here it was. Already a whole month of the New Year had gone
and she had not accomplished anything.
She turned the calendar page back to February. It was almost the Lenten
season again. Two weeks! Two weeks was all the time she had to determine,…
to decide what her pennance for Lent would be. Oh my God! What was she going
Slowly, The Old Lady began to think. It seemed her thought process was
another of those things that had slowed down in her life lately. As a matter
of fact, just about everything in her life had slowed down this past year,
or even sooner. She thought about last year’s pennance. She still had this
guilty feeling about giving up that chewing gum last year. Especially since
she didn’t chew gum any more and had not done so for quite some time as it
stuck to her teeth with all those fillings in them. She ruefully thought of
the last time, a year or so ago, when she had chewed gum. It was one of
those kinds of gum that was supposed to make you lose weight. Well, she had
put on a few extra pounds during the holidays that year so thought it may
help. However, it was a week and a whole container of flossing string before
she got the darn stuff out of her teeth and gums. AND! She had not lost the
extra pounds. Not even one of them. She still had every one of them, and
maybe a few more, as a matter of fact.
The Old Lady thought of the year she had given up her beloved Bluebell ice
cream. She still had nightmares when she thought of even going through one
evening with out it. She shuddered as she thought of those nightmares.
Nightmare dreams of seeing those beautiful contented cows roaming through
that pasture singing opera… thoughts of that young man with his happy face
eating all that ice cream when he was supposed to be delivering it to
dealers. Oh, the nightmares. She thought of the pangs of standing in front
of her freezer void of Bluebell ice cream. It was void because she had not
bought any because she did not want to be tempted. She had not trusted
herself not to yield to temptation. “Oh well! I’ll think about it tomorrow.
Tomorrow I will think about what I will sacrifice for Lent,” she said to
herself as her thoughts turned to other matters.
The Old lady’s stomach began to growl, reminding her she had missed
breakfast again. She arose from her chair and went to the refrigerator to
see about getting something to eat. The refrigerator was almost bare,
reminding her she must go to the grocery store soon. She made herself a
peanut butter sandwich and sat down to review the weeks’ grocery sales in
the newspaper as she ate.
There was a good sale on Progresso Soup. That sounded pretty good. In the
Old Lady’s mind, that was about the best soup on the market. You could
depend on it not being so watery and having a lot of vegetables in it. She
reached for her pad and pencil and noted that article down on her list.
The Old Lady continued scanning the sales. “Ummmm! Let’s see! I’m gonna need
some more crackers to go with the soup.” As she turned the page, she
remembered. “Cereal! I’m gonna need some more oatmeal. Gotta keep that
cholestrerol down.” She flipped through the sales pages. Nope! There was no
cereal, oatmeal, or otherwise, on sale. Precooked sausages were on sale. Now
then! The Old Lady liked them. Liked them too much as a matter of fact. They
didn’t turn out all rubbery when you warmed them up in the microwave like
most sausages did and she would get the oatmeal, on sale or not, to
counteract the cholesterol effect.
As she continued to scan the grocery sales The Old Lady didn’t see much else
she needed until… Until! There is was! On the last page! Down near the
bottom was brown rim Bluebell ice cream going two for six dollars. She
hastily wrote down four cartons of Bluebell ice cream on her list. She
thought for a moment and marked through the “four”, replacing it with six
cartons of Bluebell ice cream. At that price, she couldn’t go wrong. That
would be about three extra cartons if she was paying the regular price. And
it would add up to just about two weeks worth of the heavenly stuff for her
Having finished her grocery list, The Old Lady checked the amount of money
she had in her purse, picked up the bills to be mailed, and headed out to
the garage. As she put the bills in the mailbox and lifted the flag to let
the mailman know she had outgoing mail, she noticed a tiny pink flower
popping up in the dead grass by the box. On a leafless tree branch above, a
big old red breasted robin chirped at her as she stepped away from the
mailbox. She looked up into the sky. It was clear and blue. A bright sun
took away some of the chill from the cold wind. Standing alone in the yard,
she suddenly knew she was not alone. No! She would never be alone. No matter
how lonely she got, God would be there beside her. He would be there in the
chirp of a robin. He would be there in a small pink flower in the dead
grass. And, He would send the warm sun to warm her cold body from the
wintery winds. She pulled the coat collar up around her neck and headed for
The Old Lady was careful driving the road to the grocery store. She laughed
to herself as the SUV, vans, and pickups whirled by her. “They are in such a
hurry to get nowhere,” she thought. To one young driver in a shiny sports
car who whizzed around her going much more that the speed limit, The Old
Lady shouted, even tho she wasn’t heard, “Honey! It’ll still be there when
you get there no matter how fast you go! And, at that speed and whipping in
and out of traffic, you just might not get there.”
Upon arriving at the grocery store, it was hard to find a near by parking
place. A couple of young girls whipped around her taking the last
handicapped space. They laughed as they looked at her when getting out of
their vehicle. A big diesel pickup with the engine running sat next to the
space next to the girls’ car. Like the girls’ car, the pickup had a
temporary handicap tag hanging from the rear view mirror. The Old Lady had
found this to be a common sight as she went on her infrequent shopping trips
and uttered a silent prayer for those people that they would never be in a
position to know how difficult it was for an old man or an old lady to walk
even a few steps as she continued to drive around the lot looking for a
closer space to park.
Finally, The Old Lady found a space not too far from the door. She reached
down for her grocery list and read over the items she had written down. She
recounted the money in her purse to insure she had enough for her purchases.
She opened the door and reached for her walking cane she kept by the seat.
She was ready for the evening’s venture of grocery shopping.
Suddenly, the Old Lady stopped and closed the car door again. As she reached
for the grocery list, she looked up and saw a flock of little blue birds
flying over the parking lot. They lit on the lot beside her car as if
looking for food. Or maybe they were seeking shelter from the cold wind. No!
Someone, probably some kid, had dropped a bag of popped corn and the birds
began fiercely pecking at it. As she watched them for a moment the lines of
an old hymn she had sung as a child came to The Old Lady’s mind. “Why should
I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows fall? Why should my heart be
weary?” While the lines of the rest of the verse escaped her memory for the
time being, the lines at the end of it came to her. “His eye is on the
sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
That did it! She WOULD give up Bluebell ice cream for her pennance for Lent.
Yes! If her Lord had so much love that He cared for and would feed little
birds in a cold, windy parking lot, if He could sacrifice his life for her,
she could certainly give up, for forty days, her precious Bluebell ice
The Old Lady reached for the grocery list. She marked out “six” and replaced
the number with eight. Eight cartons of Bluebell ice cream. That would
prepare her for those forty long days ahead without her Bluebell. With a
smile on her face, she reached for her cane and began walking to the door of
the grocery store.
Sometimes we get so involved with what is important in out lives. Sometimes
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands
forever.” Isaiah 40:8
Especially in this day and time!
May yours be a blessed and Holy Easter, one in remembrance of what God can
do, and has done, for all us.
Joyce T. Lang