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pretty kitty, cannibalism, and outreach

April 13, 2009

this past weekend i participated in Earth Day Houston with the Society of PEACE.   once again, i am blown away by the family freebies at Discovery Green, particularly as someone who has paid for a child to attend the Children’s Festival before.  there had to be more than 40 booths set up alongside the playground areas.  a live band played all day.  each booth generally offered an activity to entertain children while providing an opportunity to educate parents and other festival attendees.  our booth gave children a chance to plant vegetable seeds.  children of all ages 2-16 could grab a biodegradable starter cup, fill it with soil (or dirt, as i kept calling it), and choose their “favorite” vegetable from the seed selections.  we talked to all kinds of kiddos and parents about getting a lovely vegetable garden started.  next to it, we had the outreach table where we had oodles of brochures for distribution ranging from vegetarian starter kits, easy vegan recipes, nutritional FAQs, realities of factory farming, and environmental awareness. 

i started in my comfort zone by working with the kids.  shortly i was worn out and easily drawn into conversations at the outreach table.  i let the moms take over kid stand and migrated in the outreach direction.  the outreach crew consisted of a professor, a med student and a lawyer.  a normal looking group, i’d say.  it was interesting to witness the reactions of passersby.  we had 2 people at different times tell us about their experiences working on the factory farms.  they, of course, said we’d made a good decision to forgo the meat products.  they were stricken for life and would never go near the meat again.  one guy was a farmer and lovingly raises his own chickens and rabbits for consumption.  a few people wanted to talk about nutrition.  some were interested in swapping ideas from their current veg diets.  others had concerns about soy, plant based protein sources or wheat allergens.  some were interested in how each of us had made the swap, which varied amongst the group of us.  in talking cost, i was able to direct some folks to my favorite farmer’s market, and relished in seeing them thrilled by the information.  we had a few shy expressions of curiosity, which we could encourage with smiles and openness to providing information tailored to the issues that interested the person.     

now for the extremes.  one of the volunteers was too extreme for me.  she couched herself as an activist and i would position her in line with the angries.  while she was not for me, i give her credit for being respectful to everyone who approached our booth.  we had one guy approach the booth looking for a fight.  he didn’t get one from us but he did persist in telling us that if it comes down to it he would happily eat his cat and is not bothered by the idea eating his neighbor.  fair enough, my friend, you are not required to be here or take any of our literature, but would you kindly clarify for me which neighborhood you live in?  then again, i suppose being a skinny veg decreases my level of desirability to cannibals, haha.

i wasn’t sure what to expect in my first advocacy / outreach volunteer role.  what i learned was that i am full of resources and the ability to express myself with a warmth and openness that draws people in.  i walked away from the event knowing i had helped empower people to make better choices for their health and humanity, unlocked a curiosity in children, and feeling inspired to continue in my contribution.  a very good day.

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