Almost a year and a half ago, the stars aligned and convinced me to become a vegetarian.
A few of the stars were:
1. My daughter's experience with flesh in the anatomy lab.
2. Three students I admired who were dedicated vegans because they truly cared about animals, and they were some of the sharpest and kindest people I knew.
3. Having read such books as The China Study, Diet for a Small Planet, and listening to and reading the words of health advocates.
4. I'd never been much of a meat eater; I'd never liked hamburgers, was repulsed by chicken, but still loved a filet mignon.
Given the infrequency of a filet mignon on my plate and the exorbitant cost, it was easy to abandon meat..
So it's with a minimal amount of pride (when I meet up with any one of the three students), that I always mention, "I've been a vegetarian for a year and a half now."
I anxiously anticipate their approval and affirmative head nodding, which usually ends with a "Wow," or a "Good for you."
I must admit that I bring the subject up because I enjoy their accolades and respect for adopting their enlightened way of life--you know how teenagers are! The conversation usually ends with "We'll have to go to lunch. I know a great vegan restaurant."
I saw one of the above-mentioned students yesterday, and again, I bring up my enduring vegetarian lifestyle expecting the usual accolades and comradeship in a world that "Needs to be enlightened."
But things have changed.
My cheery heart sinks just a little when I hear, "Oh, I'm no longer a vegetarian."
"What happened?" I ask trying to mask the disappointment I feel.
Nothing definitive, he just changed.
Change is good. Change is a privilege.
I can't foresee the day when I'll eat meat again, but it is possible, so disappointment changes to curiosity, to support, and then to wonder. Wonder at what piece of meat could have enticed such a change in my young friend. Imagining a glorious fresh caught, freshly filet-ed piece of salmon from the wild rivers of Alaska, or an adventure when he ran out of food and had to slay a rabbit for life-sustaining sustenance, I ask, "What did you break your vegetarianism with?"
I am speechless.
"My dad changed too."
"And what was his enticement to the carnivore world?"
"A hamburger and a hot dog, all in the same day."
"Did he get sick?"
He laughs, "No."
Then as if to let me know my eating habits are no longer esteemed, he adds that the purist of the group, is no longer vegan.
"But still a vegetarian?"
"Yes." He laughs, indicating that maybe she's gone rogue too, but he's keeping it secret as to spare me from further shock and suffering.
But, what would the shock and suffering come from?
Judgment. My judgment.
What if we wiped judgment like we wipe mud from the bottom of our boots on the doormat--before we step inside.
When we truly step inside each other's minds and hearts, leaving judgment outside, enlightenment arises. Relationships become rewards. Ideas are sparked, and we are motivated to become more than we are. When we step inside without judgment, we step into sanctuary. We enter into the warmth or the comfort of air conditioning. We remove a coat, or layers that keep us bundled and distant.
A young man gave a powerful message when he admitted how he thought everyone was judgmental and foolish... until he realized he was the one who was judgmental and foolish.
Then he could step inside.