I wasn’t sure if I was keeping up with a blog anymore, so that’s why I haven’t been here, among other reasons I’ll share below.
Well, this post has been about a month in the making in my mind. What did I want to talk about after all, was my central question. My father passed away early in April, after a full month of ups and downs and much time spent in the hospital with him. Going right back to my vegan product finds and reviews seemed a little silly, maybe.
Kindness was what I was contemplating. Kindness of many people who helped my parents and my family, with meals, visits, snow shoveling, and countless other things. Kindness that was unknowingly extended to me by people who did not know what I was experiencing. One incident that I clearly recognized as pure, giving kindness at the time was a young guy working at Whole Foods on a depressing, cold Monday morning, during the month preceding my dad’s death. I was down in hope and energy. This young guy insisted on taking my bag out to the car (only one bag and it wasn’t even heavy!). He was so caring and genuinely thoughtful as he conversed with me. The situation with my dad heightened my awareness to the point where, if someone did something rude to me in traffic, I would just think, well, maybe they’re rushing to the hospital to see a family member like me. Another time a doctor, whom I assume is from another land and culture, made a compassionate and respectful decision that affected my dad’s care one morning when we weren’t there yet and he needed to act immediately.
Kindness came up again in a story I heard on NPR. Then I really knew kindness was on my mind for a reason! They reviewed a book titled Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness and had the author, George Saunders, discuss his “viral” 2013 commencement speech at Syracuse University on kindness. Again, it struck a chord. The speech is a good reminder of the missed opportunities of kindness we may have encountered in life. Anyone who went through grade school and junior high should be able to relate to the concept. The times we may not have been unkind, but we didn’t act with true kindness either. The times it was too socially “risky” or too much work, or maybe just too unknown. I can find those times in my life, no doubt.
Deciding to be vegetarian, and now vegan, I think I understand, is about kindness for me. It’s absolutely not the only type of kindness shown in the world, but it is right for me. If you want to know more, I’ve learned a lot about animal welfare through these resources. I recommend the movies Food, Inc. as a non-graphic introduction to animal agriculture and its effects and Vegucated as a more graphic but educational and impactful movie. I learned and was challenged in my thinking by books such as Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. However, I think kindness has so many other forms, and I want to appreciate that being vegan or vegetarian is only one example.
I have to laugh when I think of my awesome coworkers, whom are mostly non-vegetarians by the way, and have rescued all types of animals. I could write a book about their adventures. One woman has stopped on the way to work at the edge of our very heavily traveled freeway at least once, but probably more, to grab a stray dog. Another has picked up a cat on the way to work and then called a friend to come get it because she couldn’t leave work. I won’t go into where it stayed until her friend arrived. Birds–I know there is a story, but I can’t remember it. There’s even a story from before I was there about a squirrel living in the ceiling that someone may or may not have been feeding until it could be captured and put outside! And then a few weeks ago, on a day I was off, the glue mouse trap our building manager had set up caught the mouse that was hanging around. My coworkers saw it suffering and decided to take him outside to a field, but couldn’t figure out how to loosen him. One woman happened (could this just be coincidence?) to have a warehouse-sized jug of cooking oil in the trunk of her car from a recent shopping trip and they figured out how to loosen him using the oil and set him free. This was not without disapproval from some superiors, but I so love them for this. I would have been out there too. I don’t ever think I’ll have the courage for some of their acts of kindness (I’m truly afraid to stop at the edge of a freeway unless forced to, for one), but I am thankful for what I can do. It’s not about what I “can’t” eat as I have heard others describe it, but a way to spread kindness in my world.
It is a wonderful world, isn’t it? That’s a reference for my Dad, by the way.