Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Piece of (Vegan) Humble Pie

With my post about being vegan in the Delta from three weeks ago, I did more than ruffle a few feathers: I also offended just about every single Delta State student/Cleveland resident.

For which I will humbly say: I'm sorry. 

I'm a Southerner who has found being vegan in the South (whether in Mississippi, North Carolina, or anywhere in between) to be particularly challenging. I write this blog to help others in their own journey to health, whether it's just one recipe or the inspiration to begin a more compassionate lifestyle. Putting other people down has never been, and will never be, a part of this blog. 

Was saying that I was far away from civilization an exaggeration? Yes. Is it a fact that this part of Mississippi is considered rural? No. 

It's been almost three weeks since that post, and each day I become more and more impressed with Cleveland and it's great coffee shops, pretty neighborhoods, and Southern hospitality. Already, I've encountered some of the kindest people I've ever met, and I've lived in the South my entire life. Within minutes of walking into a downtown boutique, the owner was giving us directions to her house so that we could use the pool. An older woman pulled over and gave us a ride to church yesterday when she saw us walking in the heat. The guy who sold me my camera at Wal-Mart told me all of the best places to go out on the weekends, including the hot spots where I could get vegan food. (He was right! The waitress at Lost Pizza Co. didn't even bat an eye when I ordered a Happy Hippie with no cheese.)

I'm not here to "save poor little Southern America" like one anonymous commenter said, or the "poor little illiterate, hairlip children" like another. My summer school students are neither illiterate nor hairlipped. They are, however, fourteen of the smartest, kindest, most hardworking people I've ever met; victims of a system that's decided it's alright for them to fall through the cracks. I'm here simply doing the best I can, (frequently) falling short, and trying again. 

There are obviously a lot of stereotypes about Mississippi, the Delta, etc. that residents believe are unfair. Calling me names does nothing but help promote those stereotypes. Luckily, I've already "met" (via email) an awesome Cleveland-er name Kayla who is willing to help me understand where everyone is coming from.




9 comments:

  1. I think its great what you're doing. Haters gonna hate.

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  2. I read most of the offending post and was shocked. I asked myself, "How could this incredible teacher with such a huge, caring heart get misread this way?"

    I can think of only one big rule that you may have broken: Seek first to understand and then to be understood.

    That being said, I think too many of the commenters were venting about TFA when the volunteers have very little say in how districts utilize the program.

    Being a full-time teacher for 7 years, I have some insight on the angst that TFA generates. We see lifer-teachers dismissed to make room for TFA. TFA teachers are seen as 2 years and done...not permanent solutions.

    The general argument is that, if TFA would use some of its resources to help struggling career teachers keep their jobs, then we'd have a more permanent solution.

    But that isn't you. I know this. You are a lifer...I hope (b/c you are so damn good in the classroom).

    The people that reigned down criticism also did not seek to understand your situation before weighing in.

    So we had a break down in empathy on both sides. No surprise there. Our world is depressingly low on empathy at the moment.

    Keep being you. Our kiddo yesterday said she can't wait for school to start again and I attribute a large part of that enthusiasm to YOU.

    -You help steer our child towards a path of lifelong learning and discovery.
    -You are an educator who is in it because you believe in service to our country.
    -You are an educator who wants to make a difference.

    Also, you should turn off anonymous commenting...just sayin'

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  3. @ T Couldn't have said it better myself.

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  4. @ charlotte_seo

    I really hope this is Vincent. Words can't express what this post meant to me this morning. This was so moving, inspiring, and helped me understand where those commenters were coming from.

    Oh, and I absolutely turned off anonymous commenting. No more bullying without consequences on this blog! (Whether from me or commenters.)

    Thank you thank you thank you.

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  5. I would first like to say thank you for this post. I must say you other post got to me a little. I am so happy you found places that serve foods that you eat. I must say that I believe that most people posted as anonymous because they do not have accounts that will allow them to post comments, not because they are afraid of consequences. I really hope that your experiences here in the Delta will be helpful in your teaching and in your own life. I believe that you will do well in the education field here in this region as long as you keep an open mind when dealing with all of the issues you will face while staying here.

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  6. @ dsujohn

    Thanks for this post. I hope my sincerity came through and all I can say is, now I know better. Some people learn things the easy way, but the older I get the more I realize that it's always the hard way for me!

    I do believe there is still a lot of Delta/TFA misunderstanding that I would love to start a dialogue about. I'm sure most of my corps members have no idea that they are perceived this way by many, and knowing so would be a good mirror to make our stay here better for us and for Delta residents. If you have any interest, shoot me an email or feel free to keep the discussion going here!

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  7. Oh I loved this post. I would also love to just discuss some of the things that I have heard from community members. Please keep in touch. i will find you on Facebook and add you. Well, if that is ok.

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  8. Boy are these people lucky you're the author of this blog. :)

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  9. My wife and I run the website vegan-in.com. We are moving to Greenville MS next week. What are the options in the area?

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I'd love to hear your thoughts !

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