A Short Story About Gentle Encouragement

A couple of days ago something happened that I’ve been waiting some time for.
The food court was packed at midday with hungry and impatient people, my sister sat beside me as we enjoyed our vastly contrasting lunches (as usual) surrounded by the subtle roar of the crowd and the slightly too upbeat pop music playing overhead.
And then, out of nowhere, it happened;
My sister began asking questions about veganism. It was completely unprompted (except for maybe the fact that my tofu looked quite appetizing and sparked an interest), and I quite literally choked on a bit of broccoli.
You know those moments when you realize that all the psychological work you’ve been putting in is finally starting to pay off? The most gratifying thing was seeing a new wheel start to turn in her head at such a young age, and the way she was asking such brilliant questions was restorative to the faith I once lost in my ability to make a difference and step up as a leader in a traditional Southern community.
Something I’ve learned about spreading a message and influencing people is that relatability is key. Most people don’t take kindly to aggressive or shameful approaches, especially when they feel their traditions are being threatened. I was one of the very rare cases of vegan transitioning in that I went vegan over night from a standard American diet; but more important than my unique experience is my ability to assimilate into society away from the negative stigmas often connoted by vegan rhetoric and share a valuable message with other health and ethic-minded people, who generally need a lot more time than I did to transition.
The fact that my sister felt validated enough to ask questions without fear of me talking down to or shaming her is a silent accomplishment of mine in itself. I realized that harsh activism is not what inspires change in people, gentle enlightenment and encouragement are; and through allowing her space and time to adjust and feel comfortable with veganism rather than overloading her with information, she was able to start to make the connection on her own.
I hope this piece inspires thoughtful insight and reflection on communication in general. Needless slaughter will never be ethically sound, and I’m proud to be a pioneer of such a steadily growing ethical movement.

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