I’ve been thinking about the Little Red Hen lately. Remember the story? The hen finds some seeds, and asks her friends to help her plant them. They all refuse. She asks for help at every stage of the process of growing and milling the wheat, and of baking bread: Each time they are asked for help, her friends refuse. And yet, when the bread is baked, her friends expect her to share with them. Hurt by their neglect, she does not share with them, and feeds her chicks the bread.

I know a lot of little red hens. They work tirelessly and selflessly, but when they ask for help, they don’t get it. In fact, they often get criticism and resistance, sometimes from the very people they are attempting to help. They persevere, despite the negativity and the passivity, and do wonderful things, often for the very people who are criticizing them. But they are different from the hen in the story in a very important way: When the bread is done, they will share, even with those who have not helped and may have hindered.

Most of the little red hens I know work for the Lord; they are not necessarily in the employ of a congregation, but they give their time and talents to the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom. They see a problem and they step up to fix it. They see a need and they dig in to address it. They don’t waste their energy on criticism or gossip. They look forward, not backward. They serve for His Glory, and not their own.

Lent begins this Wednesday. This season of reflection offers us the opportunity to consider whether we are a little red hen or one of her naysaying friends. Are we advancing the Kingdom with joy or impeding it with fear? Are we encouraging those around us, or condemning them? Are we sharing the Bread of Life?

Throughout Lent, these pages will look at ways in which our giving something up might result in a gift to another. May the Lord bless our reflection, and all the little red hens.

“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.” John 6:26-27