by Suzanne H. McAllister, Ph.D.
Recently my colleague Anne and I tabled at a Peace Fair. We’ve done this jointly and separately for years. Typically it’s an all-day affair: getting there, setting up the table and display, engaging with one person after another. Plus, there is prep work: deciding what to bring, creating and printing flyers and other handouts.
This year we outdid ourselves (actually Anne gets most of the credit for creating display boards, postcards, and business cards). We try to picture how the table will look, hoping to produce something that will attract people to visit us. There is an expenditure of mental and psychic energy – the build-up to the event – hoping the weather and turnout is good. So, lots of physical, mental and emotional energy goes into the planning and execution of the event.
This year the goal was explicit, making the connection between peace, and compassion for all beings: COMPASSION FOR ALL BEINGS = PEACE.
For us it’s obvious. How can you participate in, or be complicit in, the unnecessary torture and killing of animals for food or clothing, or the use of animals for anything other than what they want to do, and still be at peace?
We participate in the Peace Fair because we figure this is an open-minded audience, people who care about living in a world where we treat each other with care and respect. However, we know that most people don’t extend that sentiment to our non-human animal brothers and sisters. Not because they are mean, or thoughtless, but because they have just not made the connection. I didn’t for over 5 decades. Our hope is that our message about veganism offers a thought-bridge that takes only a few steps to cross.
I left the fair this year feeling dispirited. The weather couldn’t have been better. We talked to between 50 and 60 individuals. Some of the conversations were brief, some lengthier with lots of give and take.
So, why was I feeling tired, and not the good satisfied tired, but the slumping tired.
I’ve taken time to reflect on my mood. What I’ve figured out is that the nature of what I/we were doing that day produces no immediate discernible result. There is no way to know if anyone comes away impacted by those conversations.
Interestingly, Anne didn’t feel the way I did. She was more optimistic and energized by the day. She saw it as planting seeds, and thought that some of the conversations indicated a shift in perspective; that it might take a long time, but there would likely be change in some peoples’ attitudes and behavior.
I realize I need more evidence, or maybe I’m less patient.
There is a quote that many animal activists live by:
Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”Margaret Mead
I believe this, and yet, I forgot it that day. Perhaps my batteries will recharge in time for the next event. Or maybe I need to put my energies elsewhere. Or maybe I need to become accepting of the fact that I may never know if I’ve had an impact, but that continuing to pursue the activities that align with my heart and mind is enough, that not knowing the outcome is irrelevant. Developing blind faith.