Kristen Douglas

We’re all the same on Ash Wednesday

Last year, around this very same time, I wrote a column that was near and dear to my heart.

It was about Ash Wednesday and I’ll admit, I was hesitant as I began writing and wondered if I could really pull it off.

Now, here I am again, wondering if I can pull off the same topic once more.

Ash Wednesday is exactly one week away.

It’s a day observed by Christians that marks the start of Lent – a time of prayer, reflection and repentance in anticipation of the celebration of Easter.

For centuries, Christians have received ashes, in the shape of a cross, on their foreheads during an Ash Wednesday mass or service.

But a new trend appears to be taking hold and is gaining momentum, particularly in communities south of the border.

Ashes to Go is a nation-wide movement that is sweeping across the United States and offers ashes from street corners, coffee shops, transit stops and college campuses.

It’s an opportunity for those who are interested but who may have lost their connection with the church or even their faith, to take part in the centuries-old tradition.

Sure, it may seem a bit unorthodox, but if it’s allowing more people to try and get closer to God or to rekindle a lost faith, then I think it’s a good thing.

What I’m not so sure about is the most recent Ash Wednesday movement I recently read about – glitter ashes.

An organization called Parity is selling ashes that have been mixed with purple glitter and some churches will be giving out these ashes in support of the LGBTQ community.

I can understand the concept and can appreciate the group’s intentions and the idea of wanting to make everyone feel welcome, but glitter ashes kind of miss the point of Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday isn’t about drawing attention to  individuals or certain groups because they may differ from the majority or hold different views.

It’s the opposite.

Ash Wednesday is about unity.

It’s about how underneath it all, we’re all really the same. We all came from dust and to dust we shall return.

It’s a truth we can’t escape – we are all made of dust.

Even though we may not want to think about it, Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality, and because life is short, to not hold on to grudges, to forgive others and ask for forgiveness ourselves for any of our shortcomings.

I know that’s a lot easier to say than it is to actually put into practise but Ash Wednesday is a good reminder to try.

It’s not always easy, but we can try to be more understanding of one another even though we may come from different backgrounds, cultures or social standings.

Ash Wednesday is the nudge we need to be reminded that we can all do better if we try.