Patience -- A Dying Attribute, But Essential for New Vegans
I recently spent a day just wandering around Washington, D.C. with a friend of mine. I've lived in this town for almost a year and a half, but I've never actually taken the time to go for a walk without a destination or agenda. On our way to nowhere in particular, we were passed on both sides by dozens of people who were all headed someplace in a hurry.
I thought about how modern life (and especially life in a major city) robs us of our patience. We get testy waiting in line at the ATM, waiting an extra five seconds for a Web page to load, or waiting behind someone who's going down the subway steps a bit slower than we'd like. As one who's just as guilty of impatience as the next person, I'd like to suggest that we've lost our ability to be patient because we're convinced the world will end if we don't get to all of our tasks in time. But maybe we should be trying to do fewer things instead?
What my agendaless stroll helped me remember was the value of taking the time to observe what's around me. I discovered parts of my city that I hadn't seen before, and got to see some wonderful examples of nature thriving in an urban environment. We ran across animals, fish, children, flowering plants, all in the middle of the nation's capital! It took patience to observe all of those things without getting bored, and it took patience to find a day to do nothing in the first place. I've actually been thinking a lot about patience lately.
Patience is more important for most of us than we realize, but it's essential for vegans, especially new ones. I'm a relatively new vegan (6 months), and I've lost track of the number of times my patience has been tested and has held out. Just a few examples:
- Patience when the 14-year-old I tutor asks me for the 80th time why I don't eat meat, even after having visited an animal sanctuary with me.
- Patience when reading every label of every product I buy.
- Patience when shopping in the wonderful but slow-paced neighborhood co-op.
- Patience when dealing with insensitive and rude carnivores.
- Patience when talking to friends who know almost as much as I do about veganism, but choose to be omnivores anyway.
- Patience when cooking new things for myself and my wife, with mixed results. (Quinoa? Ick!)
- Patience when being bashed by "personal purity" vegans who don't agree with me about the BK Veggie.
- Patience when sending e-mails containing the word "vegan," which isn't in the spell check dictionary.
- Patience, while waiting for my feet to heal from new vegan shoes that are less comfortable than my old familiar leather ones.
- Patience when old friends tell me about the huge steak they ate last night.
Being a new vegan is all about patience. If we are impatient about expecting ourselves or others to adjust to our new lifestyle, we risk alienating those who have loved us for a long time, and losing our confidence in an important choice we've recently made. We risk being seen by others as militant, miserable people who deprive themselves of pleasure and can't function in the real world. To me, that's too big a price to pay when the alternative is recapturing a character trait that's so helpful in life anyway.
With a little more patience, we can go out walking for no reason whatsoever. We can find the difference between twiddling our thumbs in the ATM line and checking out the world around us while we wait. Patience has led me to discover more ways to express my growing sense of compassion that has come from being vegan. I'm sure I can't be the only one.
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