I’ve always been invested in the world’s problems but never more so since becoming a vegan. That’s not to say that you can’t be a helpful citizen of the world while still eating animal products but just to say that, for me, veganism has opened my eyes to all the ways in which I can exercise my philanthropic muscle.
I know it’s easy to feel defeated, to feel like whatever you contribute to whatever cause you to contribute it too, it couldn’t possibly be enough to make a difference. This is the root cause of so many problems in the world, this defeatist attitude before we even begin to fight, and it must be stomped out with gusto.
You can do this. You can make a difference. You can be exactly who you are, right now at this moment, and still, have a tremendous impact on the lives of others. Here’s just a small sample of some of the ways how.
1. Give your stuff
I used to really get irritated with homeless people asking me for money. Why do I have to schlep off to work every day while they just sit there and get handouts? The truth, as always, is more complicated than it seems and there are myriad reasons why someone becomes homeless and I doubt very highly that any of the reasons is because they wanted to.
I give change if I have it but I much prefer to give food. Vegan is sometimes code for ‘probably carrying snacks in your backpack’ so I always have a piece of fruit or some nuts to offer. I’ve had one dude turn down an apple, (maybe he’d already had one that day?), but other than that I have found people to be very thankful and gracious and it’s made me feel good knowing I’ve helped to provide them with a small bit of nourishment.
It also means I don’t have to walk by and pretend I don’t see them there which always made me feel weird and mean and disconnected from humanity. Give your stuff! Food or clothes or whatever you have that you no longer want!
Someone somewhere could put your old things to new use and the effort it takes to find that someone, (be it a person or a charity), is totally worth it.
2. Give your money
Supporting a cause doesn’t have to be a costly commitment but giving money to charities whose work you admire is a wonderful way to show your support.
I give monthly donations to Farm Sanctuary, (where I foster a pig), and Plan Canada, (through which I foster a child), and periodically I give to Our Hen House which is an amazing weekly vegan podcast that has taught me SO much about what’s what in the vegan world.
I also set a small budget aside to give one-off donations to organizations I come across and am moved by. Organizations like the Against Malaria Fund and Greenpeace and Humane Society International. I definitely steer more towards animal rights organizations with my giving, that’s what I’m passionate about, but I also give to human rights and environmental organizations as well.
I’m not tooting my own horn here, I certainly keep most of my money for myself and my ever-expanding closet of dresses, I’m just saying that charitable giving is totally doable within your means, whatever those means maybe.
3. Give your time
Volunteering is a great way to support charitable organizations, especially if donations aren’t in your financial cards. There are endless ways you can volunteer and most charities are also willing to work with you on your areas of interest and experience to find a way that you can help, it’s like a custom-built job! For the greater good!
I volunteer with the Toronto Vegetarian Association as part of the Veggie Challenge Team and I find it hugely rewarding to use my skills to help TVA further their mission of inspiring people to choose a healthier, greener, more compassionate lifestyle through plant-based eating.
As I’ve said before, volunteering is also a great way to meet people who have similar interests, so you’re honing your charitable skills AND your social skills! You meet people, you help an organization you like do work they couldn’t do without you, and you spend your time on something you feel passionately about – sounds good, don’t it?!
4. Give your compassion.
It can feel relatively easy to be charitable with your stuff and your money and your time but can feel comparatively difficult to be charitable with your thoughts and exchanges with others.
The longer I’m a vegan, the more I realize that if we are opposing the indoctrinated idea of eating one way (i.e. animals), we should probably not choose to combat that with further indoctrination, albeit from the other side. Dogma is alienating and isolating and, I believe, detrimental to our movement of compassion.
It’s also challenging to be charitable with ourselves sometimes, feeling hypocritical because you’re donating time and money to one cause while remaining ignorant or inattentive to another. I don’t eat meat or animal products, but occasionally I have a cup of coffee and eat bananas.
I don’t wear leather but I do wear clothes that are made in foreign countries where the workers are likely paid and treated poorly.
What’s important here is not to let imperfection hinder our perpetual quest for compassion, but to be kind to ourselves, and patient with ourselves, and to recognize that the world we live in is set up in such a way that we are not encouraged to question how our actions are impacting others. That you have chosen to live a life in consideration of how your choices support or oppose injustice is a huge step in itself.
You should remember that, and treasure that, and never let what you aren’t doing, make you feel less good about what you are. You’re a philanthropist! A lover of life! A believer in do-gooding and a proud disciple of the word.