Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Wednesday Walk: Leading by Example and Animal Haven of Asheville

Welcome to Wednesday Walks, a new feature on the blog that allows you a little peek into our world. 

A few years ago, a yoga teacher friend of mine showed me a new tattoo that she'd gotten on her wrist - a small line of script written in some elegant Asiatic language. "It means Lead by Example," she explained. 

It's powerful, this mantra, and there is nowhere I try harder to embody it than in parenting. As a single mother, I long ago grew tired of the continuous flow of rhetoric perpetrating that my son was destined to become a statistic because I was a woman raising him alone. I committed myself to being fully present as mother, reading all the guidebooks and articles on conscious and attachment parenting that I could get my hands on.

And yet, nothing has ever made more sense to me as a mother than the simple message of my friend's tattoo: Lead by example.

In late spring, I became vegan after years of being an on-again/off-again vegetarian. That's a story for another day, but my son, to my great delight, announced shortly afterwards that he wanted to become vegetarian. He had given this a lot of thought and decided it was better for the animals, himself, and for the environment. And 6 months later, he's holding steady, eating healthy, and loving his choice. He was keen, however, to visit an animal sanctuary - a place where farm animals were rescued from an unhappy fate and could live their lives in peace. I looked around and found Animal Haven of Asheville. Considering that I hardly need a reason to visit Asheville - a town I love so much that it's where a large portion of my book is set - I was more than happy to plan a trip. Then he surprised me by asking if, before we went, he and a friend could have a yard sale and donate a portion of the profits to help the animals.

I wanted to make a big fuss over this, but I didn't. Why not? Because over the years I have made giving back, which is very important to me, just seem natural - something we do because we are part of a family, neighborhood, or community. So we headed to the closets and gathered a hodge-podge of items for a rather spontaneous yard sale. The kids had no problem telling people that their mission was to raise money to help the animals of Animal Haven, and I was touched by the generosity of folks who stopped by the sale. Even if they didn't see anything that interested them, most still donated a few dollars to help the fundraiser. 

And so, the next weekend, we all piled into my car and headed up to visit Animal Haven of Asheville and donate the monies raised by the yard sale. It's a most wonderful place, and if you are in or near the Asheville area, I highly recommend you stop by and spend some time there! 

The kids so enjoyed meeting some of the animals that their donation would be assisting! 

We all enjoyed the breathtaking scenery and the on-site thrift store. Profits from this thrift store go to support the animals, so we were happy to donate the leftover yard sale items to them as well. As an avid thrifter, I'm always excited when I find a new shop, and this one is really great. For a whopping $3, I scored an awesome handmade potholder, a vintage necklace, and a beautifully illustrated knitting book from the Country Diary series. 

And likely I'd have found more, but it was a lovely day in the mountains and I was more keen to be outside than in!

So all in all, this experience reminded me once again of the power we have, as parents, to shape our children's lives and perceptions by our own actions. No matter what words we may use, we are always leading by example - how we give back, what we tolerate, how we handle frustration, what we do with leisure time, and so on. My friend was dead-on when she chose Lead by Example as a gentle reminder to model in her life the yoga concepts she was teaching in her class, just as it reminds me to model the values and morals I want my son to learn. 

The people who make Animal Haven of Asheville happen are also leading by example. Everyone was so friendly and knowledgeable, they made us feel welcome and truly at home. We will definitely go back. If you'd like to learn more or even better, volunteer some time to help with projects or animal care, please visit the above link to view this website and this link to follow them on Facebook!

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