If there is one thing on which we all have equal footing, it is our mortality.

The Book of James pulls no punches when its author asks the reader, “What is your life, but a vapor?”

Sometimes, the world feels as if it’s standing on its head. People whom you never thought would abandon their principals can’t shed them fast enough in order to acquire the good graces of those in power.

It all can be fodder for despair. In Psalm 37, the writer laments how the wicked seem to spread themselves like “a green bay tree.”

The problem, of course, is that none of us see ourselves as the aforementioned tree.

It’s always others who are worse, who are in more need of redemption.

Ash Wednesday begs to differ. It calls us all to abandon the foolishness of thinking that we have no need for penance. We all are in need of forgiveness, be it from those whom we love, or those whom we judge from a distance or even from ourselves.

If there is one universal human curse, it is the pursuit of power. It is the cause of most suffering and the underlying reason behind all wars. Ash Wednesday encourages us to stop obsessing over that which can never be possessed, only borrowed.

Our anxiety ignores this truth, so we find ourselves encased in worry, or resentment, or entertaining soul-curdling thoughts that “would shame Hell” as the writer Samuel Johnson once put it.

Ash Wednesday bids us to re-examine that which we have deemed to be valuable.

It’s not an accident that the ash marks that will be placed on the foreheads of so many today will fade before the night is done.

So it is with life. We are only here for a moment. Let’s make the most of it.

Help save a life

When you add up all the obituaries, the police calls, bodies found in parks, bathrooms and basements, the numbers are pretty stunning.

In 2019 alone, 70,000 Americans - more than were killed in Vietnam - died from drug overdoses.

It’s a figure that includes 4,000 Ohioans.

Though the frequency of overdoses has dropped, the problem has not dissipated. The number of Ohio kids in the foster-care system due to opioid addiction continues unabated, swamping courts and social workers.

Now comes word that methamphetamine has reappeared to consume more souls like an unquenchable fire.

We know that the potential for substance abuse has always been with us. The Mesopotamians were brewing beer 10,000 years ago. American jazz musicians were smoking marijuana in the 1920s.

So, perhaps we need to be asking ourselves a different set of questions, For instance, what is it about life in 21st century America that is driving so many to take such deadly risks to escape it?

We all have a stake in defeating this monster because, at some point, it will show up in our neighborhood. Because we all bear the resultant costs of crime and child neglect. Because everyone knows someone who’s struggling with an addiction - even if we don’t know it.

Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com. On Twitter: @cgoshayREP