I’d agreed to leaflet with a friend in DC. The plan was to catch people on their way in and out of a movie theater where Charlotte’s Web was showing, and offer them the VegDC guide.
Best laid plans and all that – the weather was awful, the theater was inside a mall, so we had to stand a fair distance away (outside, in the rain, on the sidewalk). I’m pretty sure we missed most everyone going to the movies, but we still had a pretty successful night and once we hit our stride, we gave away quite a few guides.
As always, very interesting reactions. There was the guy who lept across the sidewalk, “VegDC guide!”, took a guide, and then his friends took it from him and threw it on the ground as they all laughed. Hm. Not really funny. Another guy came back to give me a guide back, “I didn’t want you to waste this, and it would be wasted on me.” Very polite, and much better than throwing it on the ground. Still disappointing when people aren’t open to it at all, but it is to be expected for some.
There were a lot of very positive reactions as well. I had several people say variations on “good for you”, meant sincerely. There were a fair number of people who looked about to take it until they saw the “VegDC” title, but there were also a number of people automatically refusing the leaflet until they saw what it was, and then took it with enthusiasm.
Early on we had a man and woman take a guide and then ask me if I knew where to find some homeless people. That threw me for a loop. They had some stuff, blankets and other things, that they wanted to hand out to people who needed it. I don’t know DC all that well, but I sent them to the anarchist bookstore. I figured the folks at the infoshop would know where a good place to donate such things would be, and if they weren’t open, there are several churches in the area. It was pretty cool to run into people who were doing things like that.
One of the most promising interactions was with a man who was wearing sunglasses and had a cigar still wrapped in plastic clenched in his teeth. I noticed him because of the sunglasses – who wears sunglasses at night? It seemed like a somewhat contrived outfit, but the lesson I seem to learn every time I leaflet is that superficial judgements should be disregarded because they’re often wrong. He was fiddling with his phone when he walked by me into the chipotle I was standing near, so I didn’t offer him a leaflet then. I noticed when he came out, and was about to offer him a leaflet, sure he’d either ignore me or blow me off, when he actually approached me and asked me what I was handing out.
me: “VegDc – it is a guide to vegetarian restaurants in the DC area.”
him: “Really? That is perfect. I have been thinking I should make that step. I have been really cutting back, eating a lot of fruits and veggies, soups, and I have never felt better. I have so much energy.”
He went on to explain that he does still eat chicken and salmon sometimes, and that he had some friends in New York who were strict vegetarian, “ate mostly fruits and vegetables”, but that it seemed really hard to him at this point. He agreed with me that it was as much what we’re used to as anything else, and that he could easily get used to eating vegetarian. I remembered that my leafleting partner had some vegetarian starter guides in his backpack. Those pamphlets have some recipes, and I thought that might help, so I went and grabbed one for this guy. He seemed to really appreciate the time I spent talking to him as well as the information I was able to give him. I know he is focused on the health aspects, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t be open to the animal rights aspect once he learns about it.
It is interactions like those that make me feel like I’m doing someone (and some animals) some good. Granted he was an easy sell – he was already thinking along these lines, but hopefully this will be the push and the encouragement he needs.
There were many others who seemed surprised to be handed vegetarian info, and I heard many “vegetarian!” exclamations. Surprised, but not scornful. I think many of them will read the information. I think some of them will make some changes.
It was worth standing in the rain.