VALENTINE’S Day – February 14th - also happens to be the first day of Lent, 40 days in the run-up to Easter.

It may just be that you have already been asked what you are planning to give up for Lent?

It’s often said that life is about choices. People who get into trouble are often said to have made “bad choices.”

But a life based on perpetual choice would be a nightmare. To avoid the tyranny of having to make perpetual choices, we develop habits. Habits deliver us from the tyranny of perpetual decision. The point is, to develop good habits. That’s what Lent is about.

A very extraordinary thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago on a journey back to Salisbury via the M27. After a long day of meetings I noticed that my car was in urgent need of petrol. I stopped at the station and filled up with £30 worth of unleaded.

To my horror and panic found myself at the payment kiosk without my wallet. I had no proof of identity and even my clerical collar seemed not to be any assurance to the assistant.

After an extended exchange a complete stranger standing next to me asked what the problem was. I explained my situation and he took £30 out of his wallet and paid for my petrol. I pleaded with him to give me his contact details but smiling he simply said, ‘I am glad to have been able to help’.

His generosity delivered me from a seriously difficult situation and renewed my confidence in the goodness of people.

An act of random kindness. A choice that transformed that moment and the remainder of my week.

So the question I will be asking myself this Lent is how can I follow the example of this complete stranger?

What small acts of kindness might help others?

You might want to think about giving to a cause you believe in; someone for whom it might make a difference.

Maybe another act of kindness that would be transformative. A tougher and more costly act of kindness, like trying to put a relationship back on the right track? Someone we have fallen out with or indeed someone whom we just need to write to say some things that we’ve always appreciated but never told them.

A random act of kindness.

I am grateful for that stranger at the petrol station whose gesture helped me at a moment of need and cast a fresh light on kindness that will stay with me.

Perhaps we might use these days of Lent to follow that example.

May you have a holy Lent, rooted and grounded in love.

By the Reverend Canon Professor James Woodward
Principal, Sarum College