Many people have their preconceived notions about vegans. I myself, used to think they were radicals who did not want to be part of society. I never pictured a vegan as a person who wears normal clothes (normal being a relative term) and plays well with others. Since becoming vegan over a year ago, I have tried to show people that we are the every-day person you feel comfortable around. We just do all those everyday things without the use of animal products.
I have the benefit of being married to a woman who shares my level of compassion towards all animals. We are both vegan and she is by my side in all aspects of our veganity (that’s the first time I actually used that word in this blog!). That alone, would make my situation easy enough to stay vegan; but it is also something I knew was going to be there for me when I made the transition with her. What I did not expect to find was a new welcoming community of vegans.
My volunteering is well-documented on this blog, so I am not going to go into great detail on that. What I rarely mention, however, are the human-animals that have adopted me into their family.
Being part of a vegan community has had all the benefits you would see in most communities. My knowledge has grown about the movement. I have gained many new friends, some may even be life-long friends. And I have been inspired by all the great advocacy and random acts of kindness I see from these people.
I was also blown-away with how open most vegans are into accepting new vegans into their community. Everyone I meet who shares my vegan ideals (I use that term loosely) are immediately engaged in a conversation about food, animals, vegan products, and food…also did I mention food? There is a kindred sense when meeting a fellow vegan that you don’t come across very often.
The one piece of advice I would give to people searching for community in the things they care about, don’t just join a social media community. Social media is a great way to see what others are doing, but it still does not compare to the person-to-person (that does not just mean humans) interaction that is so important to our movement. Go to festivals, visit sanctuaries, volunteer at a shelter, find a Facebook group in your town or county and attend a meeting. I know that first meetings are awkward with our fellow humans, but it is worth it. Particularly with the vegan community, when you meet a fellow vegan you already know that your core-values are in-line with each other, which is the greatest ice breaker there is!
The vegan movement was born from compassion. Whether you get involved for health, environmental, or animal reasons, your compassion for all animals (human and non) grows. You start to see the world differently and compassion starts to flow from you unintentionally. I am not saying that you will become the Buddha, but you will feel sympathy and understanding for others who you would not have even noticed before going vegan.
My own experience with this was something that happened to me earlier this year.
I was always a dog person. I lived with a dog in my household from day 1. My wife and I adopted a dog 5 years ago, who has lived with us in 2 different apartments and now a house. I never thought that much about cats. I didn’t think they were great companions, because their personalities were very different from what I was used to in all the dogs I knew. After being vegan for about 6 months, the idea of adopting a cat was brought up to me, by my wonderful wife, and to her surprise I was all for it.
My reaction even surprised myself. I never wanted a cat before this, why was I so willing and excited by the idea now? I realized that the compassion grown from my veganism opened my mind and heart to adopting a cat. I no longer felt a loyalty to one specific species over another. I wanted to rescue a cat and give him or her the best life I could offer. If my lifestyle did not mesh with the cat, I would just adapt my lifestyle to benefit him or her.
I am happy to say that my wife and I did adopt a cat, and she has been the best decision we have made since going vegan!
Whether conscious or not, the openness and compassion in your heart will grow just from simply excluding animal products from your life.
This is what vegan means to me: community and compassion. You can put those two in any order you like, but the one helps the other and vice-versa. Going vegan has changed my life for the better and has not stopped improving it yet. Whether you are already vegan, transitioning, on-the-fence, or never considered it: you will find that once you open your mind to that lifestyle, you will forever learn from its unconscious benefits.