For centuries, Christians around the world have observed Lent in preparation for Easter as a way of drawing near and reflecting on Jesus’ death and resurrection and preparing themselves for baptism.

Before the fourth century, the traditional Lenten observance only lasted for 40 hours – the number of hours Jesus spent in the tomb. But since the early fourth century, Christians have fasted for the 40 days of Lent.

The number forty has several Biblical references: the forty days and nights of the great flood in the story of Noah (Genesis 7:4); the forty years the Hebrew people spent wandering in the desert (Numbers 14:33), and; the number of days Jesus fasted in the wilderness and was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1–2Mark 1:12–13Luke 4:1–2).

For many who observe Lent today, the practice often involves giving up or “fasting” something important.

This year we invite you to take the #LentChallenge with us. Add something to your Lent observance that’s a bit more public – one where in addition to giving something up, you give something back.

You can give something easy, something needed. Like smiling at a stranger while you wait for the elevator. Or buying an extra cup of coffee and sharing a cup of encouragement for a co-worker, classmate or friend.

Or you can fast some of your time or financial resources to help us care for people who are struggling to make ends meet in your community. For instance, you can help pack up boxes at one of our food pantries or deliver hot meals to home-bound seniors. Or you can make a financial gift that helps us purchase the nutritious food that sustains our neighbors in need.

Sign-up for 40Acts: The folks at #40Acts are challenging us to “do Lent generously.” Click here and sign up at their website to receive a daily Lenten meditation and suggestion for an easy act of generosity. You’ll be glad you did.

Fast your time: Spend some time making life better for someone else who lives in your community. Click here to locate your nearest Salvation Army location and look for a meaningful way to give back. Invite a friend!

Fast your $$: The Salvation Army has dozens of ways to care about someone in need in your zip code.  Click here for our donation page so we can pool our gifts together to make life better for our neighbors. Thank you!

Thank you for taking the #LentChallenge with us. May your season be filled with meaning as you share and prepare for Easter.

>> This post originally appeared on ExpectChange.org <<<