30 While 30: Day 202 – On return from Charleston (Vegetarian Day: 27)

Photo courtesy of whitehouse.gov (re: your tax dollars)

Did you know that the VP garners 35k a plate?  I was unaware of this, until that is, I was down in Charleston, SC, trying to make a dinner date with my teammates from work at the lovely Magnolia’s Restaurant in the old district of Charleston.  We didn’t find this out until we got caught in traffic moving into the city, and noticing the fact that it appeared that every single officer in North Charleston and Charleston (yeah, there are two of them) was out on patrol for the event.

I digress … and I’m less than 100 words in.  I’d better get to point.

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending and participating in the 16th Annual Conference on Advancing School Mental Health.  It was my 3rd attendance, but I am happy to say, the first time (with the help of some of my teammates) that I was able to assist in presenting for one of the breakout sessions.  The week was filled with presentations of working school-based mental health programs and initiatives, and several key-note addresses by forerunners in this modality (way of doing) mental health treatment.

A few things that I have definitely taken away from this last week.

1. It is so important to not focus on the negative.

Granted, we are prone to this. In fact, much of our society is predicated on this.  Police and Fire services respond after an event has occurred.  Most strategic plans of organizations and entities are focused on a “what if this happens?” mentality.  That, at least, lends itself to the idea of proactive planning.  One of the most promising things about this national conference is the shifting from fixing problems with the “tough kids” to the proactive nature in helping to build resilience.  You see, the former is generally focused on a small minority of our children, the latter is the great majority of our young people.  What is true is that on the whole, most kids function very well, learn lots of information, and overcome a great deal of adversity … despite what you see on television.

I mean, how many times do you see on the news how dropout rates are high or increasing, and that we have an “epidemic of illiteracy” in the United States? Well, while it is important not to ignore the plight of those that need the most assistance, the truth is that on the whole, there are a lot of things that are working … and working quite well.

In that same line of thinking, how much time and energy do we put into the ideas that take what we know that works and make those things better (or more prevalent)?  How are we looking for the programs that do not just eradicate the deficient areas, but continue to raise the bars of achievement, personal development, and youth resiliency?

There was a lot of that this week, and I was glad to see it.

2. I am not a life-long vegetarian.

I admit it.  I like meat.  There … I said it.

During one of the key-note presentations (where the conference hall provided lunch), I happily discovered a fellow vegetarian at the table.  Jessie, a Psychologist was also asking the quick-moving table attendant about the vegetarian options for the meal.  Not wanting to miss a learning opportunity, I struck up a conversation.  It went a little something like this:

Me (in my head): What am I going to eat for lunch?  Yesterday they gave me a salad with eggplant on it.  Eggplant?  I mean, I understand it looks like meat … but does grilled eggplant actually go on a salad?

(I notice across the table, Jessie ask for a vegetarian meal)

Me (out loud this time): Jessie!  I know that I am a complete stranger, and you don’t know me from Adam, but can I ask you a question? (Enter longer-than-probably-needed explanation of my 30 while 30 project) … So, do you mind sharing with me how you came about your decision to be a vegetarian?

Jessie: Well, I was 16 at the time and had been reading the Jungle, y’know that book about meat processing, and around the same time, I ate this beef burrito at Taco Bell, and it really messed with my stomach.  I haven’t eaten meat since.  I don’t even notice, really, or even miss it.

Right about that time, the waiter brought us our vegetarian entrée.  It looked a little bit like this:

Image courtesy of kosherhamptoms.com

Yeah.  I’m glad the starter salad was decent.  I am not a fan of eggplant.  Even less of eggplant meant to look like a dish that contains luscious meat, like lasagna.

By the way, this is not a slam on vegetarians.  The honest to goodness truth is that I could probably do this for longer than a month (thanks to simple eating – something I learned about myself this week – that you all will hear about on Thursday).

The thing is that I don’t really want to.

That being said, the more I look at and talk with vegetarians, either over the internet or in person, when I can find them in the wild, is that in most cases, they have a strong biological aversion or moral objection to eating anything that “has a face”.  I don’t mind that so much.

–         –          –

The thing that I think I will take away from this particular month, is the power of a strong conviction.  Conviction, or a strong drive or belief in something that changes (in most cases) a particular action, is the reason that many people to the things that they do.  Conviction also holds you do it.  Conviction isn’t a preference (like the difference between Coke or Pepsi), conviction is more fundamental than that … more simple.  Conviction is what causes people who see their parents die of heart disease to commit to and successfully shed their extra pounds and lose that weight.  Conviction to a faith will drive people to radically change their lives (or who they vote for) or may even lead them to death … that the belief is stronger than the will to survive itself.

I don’t have a strong conviction to stay away from meat.  Summer has a documentary that she wants me to watch before the month is out, so maybe that will change, but as it stands right now, I don’t have that strong pull.  And that’s ok.  And it’s ok if you do have it.  That’s the beauty of this existence.  There is room for the both of us.

That being said, what are your convictions.  What are those singular moments (like Jessie with the Jungle and Taco Bell), or pounding beliefs (religious or moral), or persistent experiences that shape your worldview?

As we learn to harness those, we learn to focus our energy, remind ourselves of what really is important, and regain our understanding on where we fit in the big picture.

_Thomas

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