The author of one book I read earlier this year described how he and his spouse avoid holiday gatherings and other get-togethers at their parents’ houses. They simply can’t sit by silently and condone their relatives’ meat-eating.
While I understand where the author is coming from (and even have a certain respect for his extremism), I personally refuse to become the stereotypical “judgmental vegan.”
I’d much rather attract others with positivity than repel them with arrogance. Personal experience has taught me kindness is far more likely than rudeness to convince others that I’m not the one who is crazy!
Yesterday, I had the chance to put my compassionate approach into practice. Entering a family member’s house, I overheard some of my kids debating veganism with their cousins.
The tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife (which is more than you could say for the meat sizzling on the grill.)
They all looked as if they expected me to bring the conversation to a screeching halt. Then my nephew began asking me something.
Before he could finish, I turned around and exited out the front door to finish unloading my vehicle. While grabbing the watermelon and bean burgers from the trunk, I felt a twinge of guilt.
My primary concern was to set a good example for both my kids and their cousins. So, after setting the watermelon on the counter, I joined them and began with an apology:
“I’m sorry for walking out on you when you were midway through asking me something,” I told my nephew. “What was it you were saying?”
It turns out that his “question” was really more of a statement. He asserted that one family becoming vegan wouldn’t make a real difference in the lives of animals or the health of the planet.
“That’s an interesting point! I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but plant-based food sales have grown exponentially over the past couple years. Nut milks have taken over more space in the dairy aisles at grocery stores, and popular restaurants have been adding plant-based options to their menus. These changes are happening because of families like ours.”
When my answer drew some nods of approval, I continued, “Diet is like politics and religion. It’s important to respect and show kindness to each other regardless of their opinion or worldview, especially family members.”
With that, the tension in the room dissolved and we all headed for the back yard.
Sharing the same heritage and foods binds families together. When one family member chooses to eat differently, that decision can feel like a rejection of everyone else. So I take it upon myself to make sure everyone in my family knows I accept them just as they are.
If the subject of my diet comes up during dinner, I punt the conversation to later. For me, mealtime is for laughter, gratitude and peace. The debates can wait.
And how will I know I’ve succeeded?
When my nieces and nephews think of me as their: