During Lent, we often chose to do penance by depriving ourselves of something that we love, but can live without. I recently received an Operation “Rice Bowl” from Catholic Relief Services. It gives a daily program that is great tool to learn how to use our sacrifices to benefit those in need, especially for families and children.

But how often do we confine this only to Lent? How can we sacrifice daily to help others? How can we be more mindful of our mission to walk with Jesus and be our brother and sister’s keeper?

Now, don’t rush out and don a sackcloth (whatever that is), move to a cave and eat bread and water for the rest of your days (unless you’re so inclined).

Sometimes the problems seem bigger than us. The suffering in the world today is bigger than us. We can’t solve the problems alone, or possibly even ever. But we can make a difference by taking responsibility for our part in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. We must break the barriers between ourselves and those in need. Find ways to help them in a way that preserves their dignity.

Think back to Matthew 27:24 when Pilot washes his hands of the situation surrounding the condemnation of Jesus.

How often do we wash our hands?

It’s simple to say a problem is too big – but it doesn’t mean we can wipe our hands of it and go on with life.

We are called to be God’s people, and that doesn’t mean only when it’s convenient. Jesus called us to be his brothers and sisters, and as a family to care for one another as he cared for us.

“This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts,” Mother Teresa said.

Who’s hurting today? Who needs what you have to give?

Not everyone is cut out for the sackcloth, but we are all able to do something. And to do more — prayers, donations, kind words, talents, time, compassion – all of these things make small miracles every day.

Will you wash your hands or offer it to your brother and sister today?

This is part one of an ongoing series on the themes of Catholic social teaching and how to integrate them into our daily lives. Please leave a comment with any insight you’ve gained from this post or thoughts you’d like to share.