Speaking up in the face of adversity can be downright scary at times. Even so, we should never shy away from standing up for vulnerable beings in our world, even if others think our subject is insignificant, or if we’re afraid our audience is too small.

Finding opportunity in everyday situations

What do Girl Scout cookies have to do with compassion? Well, you can, in a sense, promote compassionate living while indulging your appetite for a decadent dessert — namely Girl Scout Thin Mints. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting Thin Mints are good for you, nor am I recommending you buy them! But if you find it hard, as I do, to walk by those charming uniformed girls fulfilling their fundraising duty in the grocery store, then make a point of asking them for the vegan option. And as you’re finishing the transaction, encourage them to talk to their leaders about getting more vegan varieties. This is called rationalizing the consumption of junk food. It’s also called baby step activism.

Giving lengthy, impassioned speeches about compassion to large groups of people is one type of activism, but one that not too many of us are comfortable with. The one-on-one personal approach, on the other hand, is easy and not as intimidating. Many times, it translates to simply speaking up rather than remaining quiet. We just have to be alert to the opportunities. They crop up at unexpected times and in unexpected situations.

Who hasn’t looked to a work colleague for sympathy for some physical ailment? My arthritic knees became the topic of conversation with a friend one day recently. She was very anxious to share with me what she knew of an effective treatment that happens to be made from the combs of roosters. When I explained why I wouldn’t be able to use that remedy, she was taken aback. It apparently shocked her that anyone valued the life of an animal–and a lowly chicken at that– to that extent. The information, at the very least, planted a seed in her mind that someday might grow.

When we see young children entrapping insects and other small animals in a box (even when it has air-holes!), we can speak up on behalf of the animals’ desire for the freedom to live in their own environment. We can make it a point in restaurants and bakeries to ask for vegan options, even when we already know there aren’t any, thus creating customer demand. Of course, there are countless other ways we can advocate for veganism when we share food and recipes with friends.

Call it baby steps, call it tossing a pebble in a pond, call it planting a seed; it doesn’t matter. If it influences or persuades someone to live with more compassion, it’s worthwhile.

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