|...meticulous advice for the refined activist|
Dear Gwendolyn Good-Deed,
Miss Good-Deed has sent out reams of thoughtful, earnest letters to various and sundry recipients, only to receive a mechanical form letter that has the emotional and intellectual heft of a pebble. She has also written the daily newspaper in her town on many timely and important matters, and, in the place where her letter should have been printed, instead found misguided quips crafted by lonely senior citizens and strategically planted letters from industry spin doctors.
Miss Good-Deed has stood out in the cold, rain, and heat, leafleting, protesting and participating in civil disobedience. Why does she do this? Surely she doesn't do this because she enjoys being accused of being a hypocritical, sanctimonious, child-hating, leather shoe-wearing sourpuss who is without both a job and a life, but still, this is the most common response to her efforts.
In short, Miss Good-Deed has had every opportunity to jump ship, to become apathetic, to sit in front of the TV every night with potato chip crumbs scattered around her, resigned to her inconsequentiality, but still she, like millions of others, continues making phone calls, writing letters, and being an all-around rabble-rouser . For goodness sake, is she some sort of glutton for punishment? Does she just not learn from her mistakes? Why on earth do animal advocates put themselves through this?
Because it works.
Gentle reader, what you are doing for animals and your fellow humans can not be underestimated. A difficulty is that your work is growing and developing strength below the surface, joining with all the work of countless others, and one usually cannot observe that developing. Sometimes we see the physical effect of our work, for example, a town might outlaw rodeos if enough people don't support it, but most often, what activists are doing is happening underground, in a subterranean manner. Once it has fully manifested underground, we will begin to see our effect.
Here's an analogy: In order for a plant to blossom and thrive, it needs to grow healthy roots underground. When the roots have fully developed, we will start to see to fruits of our labor. There can't be above-ground growth without dedicated work below the surface that is feeding life into it. And fostering roots is what you're doing: calling, writing, leafleting, talking, letting the world know that there is another way of doing things. In other words, even if a circus-goer calls you a hypocritical, sanctimonious, child-hating, leather shoe-wearing sourpuss who is without both a job and a life, you have made an impact. Maybe that impact made them angry and defensive, but it could also be a seed you planted, a nascent awareness you have awakened that will blossom when the time is right.
Need more proof? Hungry for an inspirational story culled from Ms. Good-Deed's voluminous archive? Lucky you! Here goes: Every July, the street where Ms. Good-Deed resides has a block party with all the delicious trimmings; screaming children, booming music, sunburned Bermuda shorts-clad men who really shouldn't be shirtless but most often are, and the stench of seared animal flesh rising from a chorus of red-hot Webers. Needless to say, Gwendolyn usually cannot attend because some distant friend or relative beckons her to come visit during the very same weekend. It's a shame. Last year, however, she decided to politely decline travel during this particular day of July and instead approach things differently.
Last year, when she received the notice from the block party committee, an unabashed gleam sparkled in her eyes. Why? Had she learned that the festivities were canceled so that a town-wide vegan extravaganza and parade could take place instead? Did she read that in order to encourage Ms. Good-Deed attendance, Bermuda shorts and dead animal consumption were verboten? No - she had just been informed that the block party committee was sponsoring the first annual burger cook-off as part of this year's celebration. Why did her orbs glint so? Do you really have to ask?
She spent the whole week preparing... Tofu? Check. Garlic? Check. Bread crumbs? Check. She then scrutinized the palates of her very patient friends with countless versions of very similar veggie burgers for them to critique: Too much pepper? Too mushy? Too crunchy? She was relentless in her pursuit, searching for the perfect veggie burger with all the fervor of a mad scientist.
The event was, of course, brimming with screaming children, booming music, spare tire-exposing CPAs, and yes, searing animal flesh. But rising above the stench was a quiet but distinct voice, proclaiming its dissent: the sound of delightful golden brown patties sizzling on Miss Good-Deed's grill.
Guess who won the cook-off contest? If you said the guy with the biggest, meatiest, most cholesterol-laden burgers there, you were right.
Well, Gwendolyn was ready to vow to herself to never, ever participate in such an obviously biased and (clearly taste-impaired) event again, when something unexpected happened: the day after following her crushing defeat, Ms. Good-Deed was approached by Amy, one of the teenagers who lives a few doors down. She asked Gwendolyn for her recipe for veggie burgers, and if she had any other easy meatless recipes. Of course Ms. Good-Deed happily obliged. Over the next few weeks, Amy visited Gwendolyn more and more, asking for more information about vegetarianism, borrowing books, reading articles and on and on. Today Amy is the founder and president of a fantastic student vegetarian group at her high school, and she's recruiting people all the time, including her siblings and parents. Young Amy is helping to build a network of roots that is helping the vegetarian community blossom and expand. This all happened because Miss Good-Deed helped set the stage for it to come into being.
Gentle activist, with your commitment and passion, you have undoubtedly influenced many, many people, some without even knowing it. Sometimes it feels like such an uphill battle, but what that really means is that you need to take a chance to consider your successes. Did you convince someone to try soy milk instead of cow's milk? That's a success. Did you inform a friend about the truth behind circuses and discourage him from going? That's a success. Did someone ask you what your button with the word vegan on it meant? That's a success. In big and small ways, we impact those around us every day. Just because an exchange may not have been dramatic, and we may not see the obvious results, it doesn't mean that you haven't been effective.
What animal advocates are asking for is that people radically challenge fundamental notions that have been instilled in them since birth. This is not an easy position to take, and there will be resistance, lots of resistance. Take heart, though, in knowing that every day, more and more people are deciding that dead animals are not food, and that live ones are worthy of our respect and consideration. Every day that you set an example as an intelligent, compassionate and proud vegan, you are helping the animals, in countless, amazing ways.
P.S.- Want to see Gwendolyn's recipe for veggie burgers? She was robbed.
P.P.S. - Want to see Gwendolyn's favorite t-shirt for wearing while consuming veggie burgers?
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