Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Laughter Is a Serious Tool

We all love a good laugh, don't we? I know I certainly do. Unfortunately, though, I was not blessed with the funny gene, I appreciate jokes that other people make, but I'm not talented at coming up with funny things to say myself. And what's more is that with the things that mean the most to me -- work, relationships, politics, my spiritual beliefs -- I'm not always receptive to the efforts of other folks to lighten the mood. Don't get me wrong: I don't get all mean about it, but I do sometimes get a little intense. And I don't think I'm alone in that.

I've taken part in lots of meetings and seminars lately about issues that are very important to me and that normally I wouldn't consider a laughing matter. But I've noticed that sometimes the more intense a discussion grows, the more helpful it is when someone in the group says something totally goofy and off-topic. It takes the rest of us aback, releases some of the pressure that's been building without our noticing, and allows us to go back to the very serious conversation with a fresh perspective.

Case in point: animal rights. It's something that obviously is very important to me. We recently had a lay service devoted to the subject at my spiritual home, and I had some passing concerns that those leading the service might be like me: so enthusiastic about imparting every little bit of the knowledge we've gathered about animals' lives and rights that some listeners might end up feeling defensive, rather than enlightened or inspired. It's a fine line between giving animals the attention and respect they deserve and doing so in a way that embraces those who most need to hear what we have to say.

The service turned out to be a terrific learning experience for me. It started with a play about puppy mills -- complete with music, costumes, and sets -- written by another member of the congregation and acted out by kids from the congregation and from local schools. There were pratfalls and pies thrown in faces and, rather than distracting the audience or demeaning the plight of the animals, those moments of light-heartedness seemed to relax everyone and help them to pay closer attention to the message. The woman who wrote the play is as serious about animal welfare as I am, and although she's not a big jokester in real life, she had worked with the kids to lend the play a light touch that kept both them and the audience engaged.

After the play, a local veterinarian and an animal rights activist both gave brief speeches about their work, and the activist, in particular, did not mince words about how horrible animal farming, slaughter, and research are. But rather than being turned off, those around us made a point of picking up the brochures and signing the petitions that the speakers brought with them, and telling them how much their presentations had affected them. One of my friends even expressed some interest in adopting veganism -- or at least reducing her use of animal-derived foods and products. And that's a start.

It may seem obvious to others, but the idea that laughter can make it easier to learn about a serious subject, rather than derail the discussion, was a profound one for me. I may still not be the one to come up with the jokes, but I will make a greater effort to employ the help of those who can tell a joke well.

Which reminds me: I heard this great story about a duck who walked into a bar......

LK
New Jersey

- n e x t   e s s a y -




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