Sacrifice is important in a selfish world

Andrew Sinclair muses about giving up alcohol for lent, and suggests that it made him appreciate what he has more.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For most of the last two months,  I’ve been separated from two dear  friends. Yes, I do mean Blue Moon  and Disaronno. I decided that as per my annual tradition, I’d give up alcohol for Lent and it wasn’t particularly difficult. I learned that it was easy to have a perfectly acceptable night  out without a drink in you; my good  friend’s 21st in Glasgow was one of  the best nights I’ve ever had (and  one where I’m exceptionally glad no  liquor passed these fair lips). There  was even a joyful excitement about  asking for a J20 in Beacon Bar.  Sacrificing things for Lent is  something I’ve done for about 10  years, and it’s not out of some naïve  piety. My mother had always done it,  instilling in me early on that you only  truly appreciate the value of some- thing to you when you have to go  without it for a long period of time.  That mantra is something I’ve held  dear since, and this year I decided I’d  do alcohol.


Being at a university like  this one, I thought it’d be a challenge  and something that’d make me appreciate a drink, whilst also allowing  me to donate the money I would have  spent on beer to a couple of charities  dear to my heart – Alzheimer’s UK  and Cancer Research.  Giving up alcohol wasn’t the  only sacrifice I made in the last few  weeks though. Whilst I was at home  during the Easter Break, I decided I’d  go and help my mum do some collections for Marie Curie cancer care in  Croydon town centre. As cancer has  so badly affected my family, it was a  cause close to my heart, and it was  only two hours collecting money in  the town’s shopping centre – how  hard could that be?  Yet, as the time approached for  me to go, a wave of nervousness  washed over me. A strange feeling  for sure, as I’m someone who always  presents themselves as incredibly  self-assured and has pestered this  town’s good residents for the last  three years with copies of this news- paper. As I got closer and closer to  Superdrug, the butterflies seemed to  amplify, and I felt myself growing  uneasy and jumpy. There was no  need for me to, and it was a feeling  I couldn’t explain, but it was there,  nagging away. What if I don’t collect any money? What if people just  walk past as if I’m not there? What if  I fail? These inchoate feelings of being a disappointment were not aided by the hat all collectors are expected  to don, but those doubts soon dissipated and were replaced with pure  contentment. A steady stream of customers  came through the store and made do- nations of varying sizes across the two  hours, meaning that when I checked  the time, it was disappointing to realise I’d only got five minutes left.  It was incredibly refreshing to have  pleasant conversations with members  of the public I’d never have met otherwise. I’d raised money for a charity  that aims to provide palliative care to  those in acute need and to families  who often have nowhere else to turn.  And at the end of it, what had it cost  me? Two hours of my time in which I  probably would have done nothing of  real use to the rest of society. Binging  our favourite TV series is nice and  all, but it’s not really giving anything  back. Yet on this occasion I talked to  people directly affected by cancer,  talked to people just going about their  day and collected some cash along the  way. And you know what, at the end  of it I felt the happiest I’d felt in weeks.


Now, I’m not telling you all this because I want some sort of town- wide pat on the back. I’ve relayed these anecdotes because I felt they  taught me something incredibly important. We live in a society where  we’ve got everything we need at the  tip of our fingers – indeed, there are  times when I question whether it  would be entirely possible to live our  lives within the confines of our homes  and never leave.  We’ve come to lose the value of  things and that needs to change. We  need to get out and embrace spending time with people we don’t know  in settings that we might not always  be comfortable with. The day I was  collecting for Marie Curie, I didn’t  look at my phone for about six hours  and guess what? The world didn’t  end because I’d not looked at the  same memes in 10 minutes or wasted my time watching other people’s  Instagram stories.  So I put a challenge to you. Make  a sacrifice in the coming weeks as we  approach exams, no matter small.  How about a social media detox for  a few days? Or giving up coffee for a  week? From my experiences over the  last few weeks, you’ll be surprised  how much more it makes you appreciate the things you’ve given up but  also everything else around you.  And let me tell you, the first few  sips of Blue Moon always taste that  bit sweeter when you feel like you’ve  earned it


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