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Living My Values

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October 27, 2010

Trista Cornelius, Contributing Writer

My vegan lifestyle is inevitably wrapped up with other values I hold in life, and sometimes, I just want to forget it all and be thoughtless. You know, toss the plastic bag in the garbage rather than washing it out and taking it to the one recycler I know who takes plastic bags. Or, carry home my take-out in the large plastic tray with the plasticware rather than ordering the one thing on the menu that comes wrapped in recyclable aluminum foil.

However, if I give up in those little moments, give in to what feels easier, shed the burden of responsibility, I weaken my belief that one person's daily actions and decisions really do add up and make a difference. Without that, a few days of headlines, morning radio news, the daily paper, and I'm feeling hopeless and helpless.

Small things count. This is what I chant to myself some days when I feel like driving to morning yoga rather than biking the flat, easy distance. Small things count.

Then, last weekend, we were at the grocery store. Why is it that most of my moral dilemmas occur in the grocery store?

It was late on a Sunday evening, we had much left to do to prepare for the work-week, and we wanted to get home, but there I am, fretting over spinach. My options? Clean, dry, de-stemmed, perfectly un-bruised leaves from California in a large, clear, plastic container that my husband scrutinizes, hoping to confirm that it is recyclable and then resorting to suggesting that it could be re-used for gift wrapping. Or, mostly clean and dry, slightly bruised bulk spinach. But I'd left our used and re-used plastic bags at home and did not want to acquire yet another petroleum product. Or, finally, a wet, dirty, bruised clump of spinach with stems and even some roots banded too-tightly together from a local farm.

The choice should be obvious, right? The tightly-banded bunch of spinach: no plastic bag, no distance traveled, etc. But this would mean I would have to wash them, at least twice to get all the grit out, de-stem them, separate the bruised ones, dry the leaves, and then get it all in the fridge and ready to use for salad for the rest of the week.

I sighed dramatically thinking of the laundry left to do, my tiredness, my desire to sit on the sofa and read a book for at least a few minutes before sleep. Then, I thrust back my shoulders and said to my husband, not managing to eliminate the whine or sarcasm from my voice, "I have to live my values." I marched toward the bunched spinach and put a bundle in our cart.

Heroic? Of course not. I'm lucky to get to buy organic, local produce. Lucky to have some time on the weekend to prepare for the work-week. Nevertheless, there are those moments when I secretly wish I could just let go of all mindfulness and "just eat" and "just live." Thankfully, those are just tiny moments, and those moments quickly pass. And as the moment with the spinach reminded me, it wasn't that hard to wash the spinach that night, it didn't take that long, and that tiny bit of extra effort left our recycling bag empty, our consciences slightly less smudged, and resulted in some hearty salads for the first half of the week.

It's always worth the extra effort, and small things count.

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