Spare Change

jar-of-change-220x300For the past couple of years, my two grandsons have been collecting every dime and nickel they find in a glass jar. The jar, when filled, was to be given to help animals. Older grandson wanted to save the wolves, but we were unable to find an organization where we were assured this small amount of money would actually help. So in the end, the boys decided to donate their coins and a few dollars to a local rescue group that gets animals out of the euthanasia list and into homes and temporary rescue groups who foster these animals. This group attends adoption events, spends endless hours grooming the animals, and uses a good photographer to get a candid shot of the animal out of their cages and in a colorful, personality-laden photos that captures something special about each adoptable animal. We knew that this group was saving lives from a prior experience – one dog who had a bad case of mange was taken off the kill list by procuring pledges for financial assistance that would mean treatment – and life itself – to this particular animal. It worked, and that dog is now barely recognizable as the sad-eyed, mange-covered, depressed being she once was. She is now full of vitality, out of the shelter, and enjoying life with her permanent family.

Spare Change to Spare a Life

money-271x300The day youngest grandson took the money to donate, the local shelter was buzzing with potential adopters and many wonderful animals were waiting in cages and glassed in rooms to meet their fate.  A volunteer came out and told youngest grandson that he was going to receive the VIP treatment for his generous donation; at six, he already knew that those initials meant, and said to me, “I am going to be a Very Important Person!” Photos were taken, the money was handed over, and the animals were visited. Outside was a dog park, which delighted youngest grandson no end – a loving, gentle Beagle offered licks and paw-touches, a feisty Terrier was game for a romp around the perimeter, and a three month old puppy was demonstrating his ability with barking and chewing — all in all, a wonderful, memorable day.

When youngest grandson asked about the amount of money in the jar (recounted, just in case they would not accept the loose change), I told him it was just under $40, an amount that included two last-minute pledges of $5 from each of two supporters.  He was disappointed it had not been at least $100, and promptly had his mum find a very large jar so he could start saving again. This time he displayed a bit more aggression in his procurement techniques, immediately eyeing a small box of change within a drawer, and asking a few relatives to donate.  With this new empowerment, this new idea that money can translate into saving lives, there is no limit to what he will be able to achieve. It is both simultaneously wonderful and tragic that by just finding spare change, one can spare a life. Reader, can  you spare a dime?

 Note: This was written a few months ago. I now volunteer at the same shelter.

Fun and Games

rubberchicken2-300x92Some people have no sense of humor, and I guess I am one of them. Upon learning about a popular game, the rubber Chicken Toss, I was plunged into grief. Some of the people that I have come to love and trust find this game hilarious, but the existence of the rubber chicken itself is pretty horrifying to me. This chicken is not a distant cousin to the little rubber ducky, but rather a dead or dying featherless image that is all too reminiscent of the billions of gentle birds that meet a horrific end in slaughterhouses around the world.

I first heard about the Chicken Toss games in the context of school carnivals. This game is one that is considered fun by many local children. The object is to toss the rubber chicken into an actual toilet. This is a perfect metaphor for the complete lack of understanding or respect for other animals often displayed by us humans, but it nonetheless shocked me. Since I work to increase understanding and respect for other animals through my online advocacy as well as our local animal rights group, it seemed a sure sign that our work has just begun. We humans are already tossing billions of lives literally into the toilet by consuming their bodies and cycling their remains through our own bodies. This not only diminishes the lives of these birds, but it diminishes us as well.

Part of the Tribe

One of the reasons for the grief was admittedly self-centered. It is a wonderful feeling to be part of a group of hardworking people that share a common purpose; it is great to be  part of the tribe you love. Then something comes along that forces a stand to be taken, and hearing about the Chicken Toss was just such an event for me. I was told it was a popular game; I was told the kids love it. I was assured that the children could distinguish between the rubber chicken and real chickens. I was assured the chickens were free-range and humanely killed. It was all fun and games.

Magnifying my sense of isolation was a bit of old speciesist language that came out in conversation with exactly the right person to awaken me. While discussing a politician, the term “chicken” was used (only for an instant, and corrected) while speaking to a friend who rescues chickens. I am learning to be gentle with myself about such lapses, and quickly correct them. I know I have only been vegan and aware of the impact of language for about ten percent of my life. It takes time to overcome the other ninety percent of indoctrination I have experienced, but I still cringe when it happens. Even with awareness, change takes time. I try to be gentle with my fellow humans as well, knowing how we are all part of a larger system that has us just as trapped as our unfortunate animal brethren.

Losing a Sense of Humor, Losing Friends

For humans to find the dead body of a featherless chicken amusing, they have to be separated from the reality of the living individuals that these rubber images represent. They cannot know of their distinct personalities, the way they interact with one another within a flock, the way they bathe in the dust, or nestle in little chicken holes, or run to greet even humans when they know them and feel safe. Commercial interests are very invested in maintaining this divide, because it allows them to reduce these animals to widgets on an assembly line. It allows them to steal their lives, lock them in ammonia-soaked sheds or even tiny cages, and to kill them in a brutal and inefficient manner at a horrifying speed.

Perhaps the most unnecessary suffering that exists for all animals is their use as entertainment. Dogs are used in dogfighting, elephants are trapped into circuses, and calves and horses are used in rodeos – and the list goes on and on and on.  Even the use of the rubber chicken reinforces with every toss into a receiving toilet, that animals are not living, feeling, thinking beings but are objects for entertaining us. Their existence is for our use, for our pleasure. We have no need to consider them at all.

Creating and Bridging Divides

3-chicks-hidden-animal-ingredients-150x150I am still learning how to bridge the divide with my fellow human beings. I know from my own mistakes that change does not happen overnight and that I cannot demand that anyone make changes at my pace or on my timeframe. I also know I cannot knowingly participate in anything that is so patently disrespectful to others, nor can I allow the very real horror for other animals to be reduced to something that is labeled an opinion or a belief.  It is not — it is a fact. The challenge, though, is how to stand up for other animals without alienating the human kind of animal. It is the challenge of being an animal rights activist and one that I am still learning to accept. I have only to look to the gentle chicken to have an idea how to live within a flock, and to only imagine how painful for those who are taken away, hatched in a drawer, divided on an assemblyline, and either tossed into a suffocation bag or moved into production for eggs and flesh. I can only imagine the sense of betrayal for the birds raised in a more loving setting when they are being slaughtered. Because of their reality and my own awareness, it is imperative I keep trying to reach across the divide to others of my own species, my own tribe, my own community.  At times it seems I only increase the divide, and at times that may be a necessary sacrifice to raise awareness in others. Learning to be an effective voice for other animals while bridging differences with fellow humans is a challenge. Being an independent sort, I know I can survive without my flock; but the challenge at hand is how to remain part of the larger group without remaining silent.

Vegan Is Love by Ruby Roth

After hearing all the controversy regarding Ruby Roth’s new children’s book, Vegan Is Love, I was surprised to open the pages of her book to beautiful, gentle images. While I liked the artwork in her first book, this book appeared much more vibrant, much more appealing. The images of animal exploitation are representational rather than graphic. While the subject matter, animal exploitation, is very disturbing, Ms. Roth has somehow interwoven concerns for others with a very empowering message: anyone can choose to make a difference in the world. Anyone can choose veganism. Anyone can choose to love others rather than harm them.

Veganism is Love Widens the Scope

Ms. Roth has been the trailblazer for children’s books that explain veganism. Her prior work, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, integrates the amazing qualities of our fellow beings with their plight on this planet. Where her first work was focused specifically on not eating animals, this book has a wider scope. Neither book pretends to be all inclusive, theoretical, nor scientific, yet this new book includes pages about pollution, climate change, hunger, and violence. The ability to broach such important topics in a way that is understandable to even young children is part of what makes this book significant. What Ms. Roth is espousing is nothing short of a change in our attitude and relationship with other animals, and that message cannot come too soon.

Ruby Roth is Opening Minds Toward Change

From this reviewer’s vantage point, there is little to criticize in Ms. Roth’s beautiful work. The message of Veganism Is Love is about empowerment. Ms. Roth’s books as vehicles for discussion have proven to be useful. Most of the controversy about this book seems related to the anti-vegan sentiments of the status quo, ignorance about nutrition, and fear of change rather than particulars about Veganism is Love. Those who want things to remain constant are likely to object to a legion of empowered young children questioning their world.

One thing is certain, Ms. Roth has many people talking about veganism, and that is a very good thing.

Stop Eating Animals!

stop1On the way to the gym last Saturday morning, my little grandson noticed someone had posted “Eating Animals” below the STOP on the stop sign. He asked me if I did it.  I said no. He then asked me if one of my friends did it. I said I did not know who did it, but I was glad they did it. Maybe it would make someone stop and think. I mentioned I wanted to get a picture of it and he offered to take the picture as it was on his side. I also mentioned I did not believe in defacing public property, but this was  a sticker and could easily be removed. Next time I drove by, it had been.

Believing in Bugs (and other small creatures)

I often wonder what it is like to be so very young and see the roots of such massive social change underway, to have one of your closest emotional ties be someone who is invested in changing things that your own immediate family is doing. The same grandson that defended the life of a bug on the first day of school, callously stepped on a bug on the way to school  a few days ago. Even his older brother was shocked. When asked why he did it, he had no answer. After school, we discussed bullies and how size has little to do with importance. We talked about how bugs try so frantically to get away from us, how they seem to want to live as much as we do. My grandson said he wanted to go home; he didn’t like the talk much. It made me sad to see him go, but I knew I had to discuss what transpired on our walk to school. It was too important to ignore.

Later, he came by with his big brother’s friend, and said, “I’m sorry.”

I asked him the next day why he apologized. Was he really sorry or did his mum make him say that?

“Both,” he said.

I know some of his internal conflict is between what he is taught at my house and what the boys on the playground do. He has shared some of their antics with me and it is sadly what one might expect. He watches the older boys play violent video games and knows I object; I do not think killing should ever be for fun, even in a game. I know on the playground that bugs are fair game. So, apparently,  are tender hearts.

Veganism is Love = A Storm of Controversy

It has been interesting to see the controversy from the recent publication of Ruby Roth’s new book,Veganism is Love. While I will withhold judgment until I read the book (we pre-ordered a copy), I thought her first book was a useful tool in helping my grandson understand about those of us who have stopped eating animals. Some folks find it more objectionable to talk about the killing of animals than actually killing them. I appreciate that someone used their time and talent to present our vegan side of the story, even in part; I hope more people will follow Ms. Roth’s lead. I hope that in the future, there will be books about the days when people used to eat animals, and the young children will be horrified that the things of today ever existed at all.

Earlier in the week, my grandson had discovered what appeared to be a dead butterfly. He asked for my help, and I carefully moved the animal to a small curved dish, a cradle made from a bit of broken pottery on his front porch. There was also a bug that was turned over on his back and appeared to by dying. I turned him over and we moved him to another shard of pottery.  Later, we returned to see both animals had survived. My little grandson seemed so elated when he found his little friends were alive! I think his confusion over his feelings for other animals does not belong just to him, but is a reflection of the society into which he was born. There are those who unconsciously eat animals, and those who put stickers stating “Eating Animals” below stop signs, those who object to truth-telling books likeVeganism is Love and those who share the earth gratefully with other animals. I hope my grandson will become one of the people who appreciates others, whether they look like him or not, whether they have feathers, fur or scales. It is, after all, his own journey; I am just privileged to be along for this early part of the ride.

Carpe Opportunitas

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Our local animal rights group, Animal Rights & Rescue of North Texas, is always looking for opportunities for outreach. At the same time that we were searching for our next event, it became apparent to me that there are opportunities for education all around us, if only we learn to recognize them. The week that school started back in session was a good example of how many opportunties we may miss if we are not actively looking for them.

Back to School

I take my five year old grandson to school. Before the kindergarten teacher arrives, the children are to sit in the hallway until the bell rings and she opens the door.  While waiting with my grandson, the little boy next to him raised his heel to squash a tiny bug that was crawling across the floor. My grandson, ever alert, stopped the little boy in mid-squash as I kindly admonished the potential bug-killer and suggested we escort the bug outside the double glass doors. I carefully scooped up the little guy or gal, took him/her to the other side of the doors, and completed my direct rescue for the morning.  Suddenly, all the kids were at the doors, peering at the bug. “Oh, look, he has wings!” one of the children proclaimed.  They were all engrossed in watching the small insect and every young face was pressed to the glass. I asked my grandson to return to his place on the side of the hallway to wait for the bell when he explained, “I have to protect him. He (the bug-squasher) still wants to squash him!”

The day before, as I waited for the final bell to ring, I sat with another grandparent and discussed the heat spell that has engulfed Texas for much of the summer. I mentioned the horses that were having a rough time with the heat, and he told me about the nine found dead in this part of north Texas — they had been on an automatic watering system while the owner was absent and, with no one checking on them, the well ran dry and the horses perished. I had received a call only last week about another group of horses that a woman was frantically trying to save -she feared one foal was already dead. They were tied with no shelter and no water. The only water on the place was dried over with scum and appeared to be filled with snakes. She had reportedly contacted the police but they said there was nothing they could do. (The animals were removed before our plan could be implemented.) Chatting with this other grandparent was a small opportunity to discuss the importance of respecting all forms of life and the dreadful consequences of not doing so.

Banking on Education

Only last week, as two technicians were working in my garage, one approached me after seeing the sign on my car for our rescue group. His dog had been recently killed by another, aggressive dog who was then returned to his owner. This young man was concerned the dog would kill again, and he wanted to know of an animal-friendly attorney he might contact. I was able to link him to a rescue group that maintained that information and the two workers began discussing how much they care about animals. Like many Texans, they had not yet drawn the connection between what they eat,wear and use, and that concern for others. I ran in the house and came out with some information about animal rights, wrote down the number of the referral, and talked with them for about five or ten minutes about animals and veganism.

Then, only yesterday, I opened up a bank account for ARRNT, and the account executive began asking me about the work that we do. He was interested in veganism for health reasons and was quite receptive to the information I gave, most from my personal experiences. He was hung up on one aspect of animal rights though – rats. He said he did not like rats and could not accept that they had any significance whatsoever. I asked him if he had ever spent any time with rats or been around a pet rat, and we talked about how familiarity sometimes changes our opinions of others. I promised to drop by some information about veganism and he seemed very appreciative.

Bringing Down Defenses

Last week, in preparing for the upcoming ARRNT meeting, I was discussing with a city employee the possibility of our tabling at the local Farmers Market. I had spoken to this woman last year, before our group was started, and she was quite interested, stating she would like to learn more about veganism herself. This year, however, the market is bustling, and she thought maybe we could see if Prairie Paws, our local animal shelter, might give us some  space on their table. She was alarmed at the word “advocate” and seemed to hear “activist,” which she said concerned her – they did not want any trouble. Also, she balked at our name — animal rights — wouldn’t that stir up trouble, too? I assured her that we were all about peace and only wanted to provide educational materials for those that might be interested. “I don’t know; you are against what some of our vendors are selling as they sell meat.”  True, I said, but we would be promoting the produce vendors. She agreed that many folks need to change their dietary habits, but seemed to feel our group might not be a good addition.  We are part of the community, too, I said – only last week it was announced that UNT (University of North Texas) had opened one of their cafeterias as an all-vegan cafeteria, open to the public. And Loving Hut, the international vegan chain, was opened in Arlington, a town next to our town. Things are changing, people are interested and very receptive to the information we have, I said.  She equivocated, and said she would speak to her superior, but she really was not comfortable with our group. (I admit to feeling a flash of frustration – the flesh peddlers are welcome but those providing free services are excluded because the truth must not be told?) She gave me the phone number of the new administrator at Prairie Paws and also the name and number of someone hosting a tasting event where vegan food might be welcome. I thanked her for her time and decided this was an opportunity, too – she mentioned not knowing the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian, so I will follow up with more information for her and write a letter of thanks for her time. As I mentioned earlier, familiarity sometimes brings down defenses.

I have taken to wearing a vegan button when I do not have a vegan message shirt on. The sign on my car sometimes draws people to dialogue, and I now keep literature in my car and in my purse, available to disseminate at the smallest opportunity.  While our young group lacks the funds to participate in many civic events, we can always find little opportunities that may have a larger impact. Witnessing my grandson protecting a small fellow creature, watching how the other children changed their interest (save for one) in the bug towards a positive and engaging one, was inspirational to me. That little boy was unconcerned what any of the other children thought – he was going to protect the bug. It was proof positive that education works, and for me, that is all it takes to encourage me to continue on, one opportunity at a time.

A Very Young Vegan Advocate

fish-300x234Never one to be discouraged by an obstacle, my five-year-old grandson told me yesterday that he is telling his family not to fish. His maternal grandparents like to go fishing, and he knows from reading That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, a book by Ruby Roth, that fish are very sensitive and have sensitive mouths. I was amazed at this, because my perception of this little boy was that he kept things compartmentalized, just like the rest of us. I thought his interest in veganism was only allowed to bloom at my house.

A First Vegan Outreach

Whenever he has asked me why his other grandparents fish, I have told him I think they do not know about fish and their feelings. Being asked why other adults do not care about the feelings of other animals always leaves me somewhat perplexed. Why don’t they care? I wish I knew. I hope it is lack of education about their sentience, their will to live, their wish to avoid pain – just like our same wishes for our own lives. My grandson must have decided that his grandparents just needed to hear the truth, and they would stop hurting the fish. I hope that his faith in education is warranted; I hope he continues to be a voice for the animals of this world.  I hope he will not become disappointed in the speciesism of this world and the adults that have been so indoctrinated into it that they do not even realize it exists.

First Steps Toward a Vegan World

My grandson has faith in vegan outreach. At five years old, he has already become an advocate for animals and taken part in vegan education. It gives me hope that such young children can be so outspoken about animals and their feelings. I hope he finds fertile ground to plant those vegan seeds. And I hope that what he learns from me is not confusing or distressing to him. I hope he finds all the peace, health, connection, and love that being a vegan provides. And, I hope there is a world, a vegan world, that will still be here for him as he grows up. There is a lot of work to do to see that happen  – I am glad he is getting an early start on helping us to spread the word!

Can I Have Some Normal, Please?

normal-300x282My five year old grandson is very open to a wide variety of foods, since he is growing up in a bicultural family, eats regularly with people from  Cambodian/ Chinese/ Thai/ Vietnamese/ Vegetarian/ Vegan and SAD (standard American diet) backgrounds. He is usually eager to try things I make for the first time, even if I do not offer them. What I have found works best is to introduce a new food by having it on the table and on my own plate and something familiar on his. Invariably, he will ask to sample the new item and request second helpings. This scenario works very well for us and has helped him increase his interest in all kinds of food without pressure. It allows him to feel in control and makes eating an adventure!

Breaking Tradition, Causing Distress

Recently, though, I had just discovered the beautiful blog Raw on $10 a Day and fell in love with Lisa’sPad Thai recipe. I made the sauce and let my grandson sample it – he thought it was delicious. But because of my love for this raw dish (and most everything on that particular blog), I broke tradition and created two bowls of the same for lunch. Probably due to his being very, very tired, my little grandson looked at the unknown on his plate and asked, “Can I have something normal, please?”

That sentence has been reverbating in my head for the past few weeks. I know the feeling of wanting something normal. In a world that seems upside down, where corporations are rewarded for exploitation of the environment and those who want to protect it are called eco-terrorists, where animals are tormented and rendered homeless at every turn and those who care about them are considered radical, it is not easy to imagine what true normal would feel like. Sadly, in this world, the ability to detach from reality seems part of the accepted normalcy. But what is normal to a child growing up biracial, bicultural, in love with life, and encountering extreme differences between next door neighbors, both of whom are beloved family members?

Creating the New Normal

Of course, this child was longing for something familiar, something that was safe and did not require any energy adventuring or discovering. Being tired, he just wanted the comfort of the routine, regular, expected food that meant he was where he belonged and all was right with the world. I long for that comfort, that knowledge that all is right with the world, too. But being an adult, it is so apparent to me that all is not right. I have to accept responsibility for changing the world in some way, so that those who abhor exploitation of the natural world will be the new normal, where concern for animal beings and human beings is accepted by all, and where our connection with all forms of life is once again intact and secure. A world that is undergoing stress can be a scary place, but it can also be a place ripe for change. As a vegan, I have chosen a life outside the majority, I have made myself a person that is not considered normal by the bulk of humanity. If I want what I consider a normal world, first I have to help create it. I know that change is coming, but admit that at times, like my grandson, I too grow weary of trying new things and well know that longing: Can I have some normal, please?

California Cousin

jesshikeFor part of Winter Break, we had a 17-1/2 year old visitor from the southern California coastal area. This cousin had last visited us when he was 14 and he was pretty quiet back then. It was with great delight we found ourselves hosting a much more mature, outgoing, confident and healthy nearly 18 year old. Due to graduate in June, he seems to have some reasonable and pragmatic plans for his future. He was instantly adored by his five year old cousin and had ample time to play video games with cousins aged 10 and 15 as well. His stand on my veganism was summed up thus, “I will love anything you make for me.” That is pretty much what the 15 year old believes, too. Both of these young man are very gracious and seem to appreciate every little thing you do for them. They are not as concerned with life philosophy yet, but food matters.

Introducing a Teen to a Plant-Based Diet

Learning from other bloggers and vegans, I decided to go slowly on moving this grandson into a plant-based diet by offering food that was familiar, although veganized.  I had a few vegan snack items on hand and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  I would say two of his favorite items were the Vegan Pot Pies (not a scrap was left) and the pizzas made with olives, mushrooms, peppers, marinara and Daiya cheese. Vegan pizza has become a weekly occurence and each one seems to get better — but they are far from perfected yet. Still, this dinner was gobbled down one slice after another, with no complaints. For breakfast, a definite favorite was Orange Chocolate Chip Scones. Living next door to omnivorous relatives, this cousin had plenty of culinary choices.

Luckily, one of his California cousins has become a vegetarian, even though she is only thirteen, so he was familiar with alternative eating styles. The family in which he lives and dines is definitely Middle American in eating habits, with lots of high fat animal products. They are also a very loving and generous family who has taught me many good ideas over the years. When the children were tiny, I always kept bottled water in the car, pillows and blankets on any longer trips (ideas from this family), and this sibling set could be heard giggling in the back and having a lot of fun. This family taught me a great idea – Even/Odd. On even numbered days, little sister got to choose (lunch, cartoon, activity) and on odd days, little brother reigned supreme. This stopped a lot of conflict and helped the children learn to share and take turns. We went places every weekend, from live theater in the park to art festivals and picnics at the beach. We picked our own vegetables and explored the harbor. We all fell in love with our Japanese exchange student, Yukiyo, who returned to live and brought more Japanese students with her. We shared a lot of wonderful experiences.

From Hikes to Flights

I was afforded a few opportunities to really talk to this young man, now over six feet tall and towering over my diminutive frame.  He used to be my little hiking buddy. The very first hike we went on was supposed to be four or five miles but ended up being ten. We both got blisters within a few minutes which I treated with paper towels – all I had on hand. This little guy, only about six or seven at the time, skipped all the way until we reached the stairs in my house. Then he groaned, Ow! ow! my legs! laughing as he climbed up into a good hot bath to soak. By the next month, he was ready to hike once again. His sunny disposition was always appreciated by the adults on the hikes – he even found a real buddy in one midlife gentleman who had never had much of a childhood  and brought the inner child out in him. They would both hike up a hill and slide down in the dirt – THE DIRT! – and laugh all the way down. He listened keenly and learned from the Sierra Club members that knew the trails so well. It was a great way to increase his appreciation for the natural world and to share my love of physical activity.

Dropping him off at the airport, I realized there is no way to know when we will next see him. I am certain we will once again see a different young man before us with maturation becoming more and more in evidence. There was no vegan conversion on this visit, nor did I expect there to be. Still, one hopes the next generation will pause to think about the ways of this world, and consider how they want things to change in their own lifetime.  I am not nearly done working to effect change, but know that this young man is about to launch into adulthood and will select his own priorities. I was happy to hear he is running, something I did every day for an hour or more, until my knees gave out. I hope I have added something to his life and allowed him to think about things a bit differently.

I miss him already.

I’m Vegan and I’m Not Vegan

shoes-300x257A recent conversation with my five year old grandson went something like this:

“I’m vegan and I’m not vegan.”

“How is that possible?”

“Well, I am vegan at your house, but when I go home….. my parents won’t be vegan.”

“Your father is trying but finds it difficult with all the family having different views. And your mommy said she would eat whatever is delicious.”

“But she won’t. She won’t even try. And I don’t know why my daddy won’t be vegan.”

Not wishing to alienate family members nor confuse my grandson, I found this a troubling conversation. Obviously, this five year old is thinking about the underlying reasons people make the choices they do. He’s figuring out how he fits in. I paused for a minute, then went on….

“Maybe you are always vegan. Being vegan means doing the least harm (ahimsa). It is not really just how you eat. You have no choice what to eat when you are five years old, but if you care about other beings and how they feel, maybe you are still vegan.”

“No, I am only allowed to be vegan here.”

Making Sense in a Nonsensical World

I try to listen and not interpret things too much. For a five year old, most things are pretty cut and dried. One day he had asked me why I care so much about animals. Another day he is admonishing me to be careful when I am removing a bug from the house. Some days he rails against me for not having his favorite nonvegan fare available. For him, it is all part of growing up and trying to make sense of things.

I am still trying to do that even now, as a grandmother. Sometimes it feels like I am trapped in someone else’s nightmare. I live in a nation that seems in love with violence and guns, with politicians even using them in their political ads, with violent rhetoric ongoing without pause, even when another shooting claims the life or lives of innocent people. Veganism is my stand for world peace, and for the animals that live in this world, too — at least for a little while, until they are hunted, or vivisected, or led away to the abattoir. It is an era of denial, whether giving tax breaks to the wealthy while running up massive debts or denying any climate change problems even as the physical evidence mounts.  It is also an era of alienation. People are on edge.

Satyagraha: Holding Firmly and Letting Go

According to Gandhi, a part of Satyagraha (holding firmly to truth) or resistance to injustice means letting go of results, doing what you believe to be right without concern for where that might lead. Gandhi believed in a strong moral force that came from nonviolence, from refusing to participate in systems that were unjust. He also believed that it was important  not only to do no harm to those with whom you are in opposition, but to wish them no ill will. One has to be willing to suffer.

I think I will be able to protect my friend Skitter the cat for her whole life, since she is getting on in years right now. For my grandson, I have less assurance that he will have a safe or peaceful life. The principles of Satyagraha give me some small comfort; I try not to become invested in results. I am working to create a more peaceful world for the beings on earth, but all I can really do is refuse to participate, to the best of my ability, in the injustice that is going on around me. I can try to reach out and educate others. And I can make sure that, at least when he is with me, my grandson always has a place to be vegan. As he ties on his shoes to go out in the world, I am left wondering what kind of world he will inherit. But I know that is not for me to realize. It is enough that today, he is talking about veganism.