Permission from a pig

EstherAnyone who knows me knows that I have fallen in love with Esther the Wonder Pig. This social media superstar is a real pig – who, just three years ago, as a tiny piglet, somehow escaped the horrific factory farm system and made her way to Steve and Derek, two men with hearts as wide open and big as the sky.

 
Steve and Derek quickly realized a couple things:
1) Esther was no family-pet-style mini-pig. She was a commercial pig, bred to grow quickly and become food.
2) Esther was not food. She was family, part of the brood of pets in Steven and Derek’s Toronto home.

 
Because she was not food, Steven and Derek questioned what else they had considered to be food.
They knew the dark side of the world’s industrialized factory farming, but had never really delved into it. Now they did. Within weeks of Esther joining their clan, Steve and Derek became vegan. Esther and all animal-based foods were literally no longer on the table.

 
And then Steven and Derek, affectionately called the Dads, did all manner of brave and outrageous things.

 
Esther became the “spokes pig” for their message of veganism and kindness to all creatures on earth. The Dads began to share photos of their giant house pig (Esther is now 700 pounds) along with witty, heartwarming and engaging comments on social media. Esther now has an ardent global following of almost half a million people and has inspired many people – me included – to adopt a vegan diet.

 
Keeping Esther in her Toronto home was a municipal violation. So the Dads decided to open an animal sanctuary called Happily Ever Esther. They crowdfunded the purchase of a farm and raised far more than the $400,000 they were asking for – all from strangers.

 
Esther and her dads have been in the news and on the news all over the world. Celebrities have come to visit her. People flock to see her, make donations and passionately share her story.

 
I’ve wondered often what has made Esther the Wonder Pig such an incredibly popular phenomena. After all, there are loads of cute animals on social media. There’s a ton of funny stuff too, and vegan recipes and calls to action against animal cruelty abound on the internet. So what is the magic of Esther and her Dads?

 
I believe it’s the permission they give us. The permission we rarely are given (or take!) to be ourselves.
To love openly.
To be vulnerable.
To ask for help.
To be kind and generous.
To care desperately.
To be authentic.
To be different.
To be brave.
To dream.
To challenge the status quo.
To embrace and welcome others.

 
It’s a marvelous gift. And when you receive it and open it up, you automatically pass it on to others.

 
So wave your freak flags, love and shine on!

Just ask!

I’m always amazed at how often people won’t ask a question they want answered. Instead they will specuasklate, assume, dread and hope for an answer. But they never just ask.

When we want to know something, why don’t we just ask?

I’ve sat in mental misery spinning over a question endlessly: Does he like me? Is my boss upset? What did she mean by that? Will I be invited? Do we have any unfinished business? etc. etc. And I’ve seen plenty of other people – people old enough to know better – do the same thing.

When it finally dawned on me to just start asking, the relief was immense. It sounds so simple and obvious doesn’t it? But do you do it? Do you just ask?

Just asking does require a bit of bravery, some clarity, and self-awareness. Here are a few tips to get you started on your path to just asking:

  • Don’t expect answers or even civility in response to questions that are none of your business.
  • Sometimes answers will come in time. It’s okay to be patient and simply observe. Sometimes you already know the answer inside.
  • Don’t ask questions to which you’re not prepared to hear any answer.  If your heart is set on only one answer or outcome, then that’s not a question you should ask.
  • If you want something and you’re already at “no”, you have nothing to lose by asking. People cannot respond with yes to the unasked question. I’ve been given plants, food, drinks, jewelry, raises, better seating, upgrades, discounts and help just because I asked. So ask!

Can I ask you something? What keeps you from just asking?

How to be powerful

It seems as if our society is fascinated by, even celebrates, destruction.

We have that awful term “shock and awe” from the second Gulf war. We have ____mageddon (here close to Toronto that would be snowmageddon for example) and ____apocalypse (What isn’t an apolcalypse these days? Zombies, turkeys, weather, shopping).

Popular news favors the unsavory and we’re deluged with images of war, violence, crime and other horrors. Insults, sarcasm, explosions, war games, gladiator sports and brawls pass as entertainment. We’re endlessly wowed with our own ability to destroy and be horrible.

Are we drawn to the power inherent in these destructive images; the power to turn our world upside down, to rip each other or a country apart, or freeze it in its tracks?

Is destruction powerful? No. Creation is the ultimate power.  

Which is more powerful? Hurting a person or animal or using love and patience to restore health and trust? Is it more meaningful to tear down a society or to build one? Which are more enduring? Works of beauty and skill or acts of vandalism and destruction?

Victory Hand BY KANAGRAJ RAJ

Victory Hand
BY KANAGRAJ RAJ

If I can choose my response to any situation – and I can, and so can you – then choosing optimism, hope and kindness is the constructive, powerful choice.

Being morally brave, standing up for what is right, taking the high road, building, growing, creating and being generous are the hallmarks of a powerful person.