The Gift of Support
Musings from Carly: Veg Directory Assistant 2013
One rainy Monday morning I was working away in the office of TVA when a long-time member phoned in with a unique request. She wanted to purchase a membership to give a friend’s granddaughter who had recently become vegetarian.
However, this wasn’t just any gift membership (or maybe no gift membership ever is), this was much more. She explained that her friend was concerned over the belief that her granddaughter was “eating nothing but beans.” With a chuckle about the bean-centred meal she had been eating that day and the well-intentioned yet misinformed concern, she explained to me that she wanted to provide the new vegetarian with information to help her eat healthy, delicious, and varying meals while surrounded by meat-eating family members. She emphasized that she did not want to send anything that may be received as pushy, but rather offer help to someone with a genuine interest in and desire to live a vegetarian lifestyle. She wanted to purchase a cookbook or two and requested that helpful information be added to the package.
As I spoke with her and gathered the increasingly exciting package to be mailed, I realized that her gift and the intentions behind it were something special. What she really wanted was to give the gift of support.
When I became vegetarian and then later vegan, my family was overwhelmingly supportive, for which I am eternally grateful. However, I am no stranger to the eye rolls, sarcastic comments, and un- or misinformed challenges posed by meat-eating friends. I’m also aware of some of the difficulties associated with defending and upholding your views in the face of doubting strangers or confused family members. Becoming a vegetarian or vegan is hard enough (albeit completely doable!) without the added social challenge of needing to explain why you’re asking the waiter about specific ingredients or why you’ll skip the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner this year (and stuffing, mashed potatoes, and butter laden vegetables, and brought your own kale salad).
Defending your food choices can be exhausting. Sometimes I can’t answer all the questions I am being asked. Sometimes I don’t want to explain why I’m making the food choices I am making. I am often happy to explain my choices and share my knowledge to those who are genuinely interested. And I often take questions as a good sign and excellent opportunity to educate others. But I have to admit that I also appreciate when my veganism is barely noticed, or at least not the centre of attention. And I certainly appreciate when someone offers their support in the form of quiet respect.
So to my rainy day Monday caller, I applaud you. I applaud both your anonymous gift and your intentions. A TVA membership, useful cookbooks, and thoughtful information packets are the gift of support. Support from the TVA community, support as information, and especially support from you. It quietly, respectfully, and helpfully says that it is possible to succeed as a vegetarian and enjoy yourself all the while.