“…when he passed places where birds were sold he would frequently take them from their cages with his own hand, and having paid the sellers the price that was asked would let them fly away in the air, thus giving them back their liberty.”
~ Italian Historian Giorgio Vasari, about Leonardo Da Vinci
Several years ago, we received a couple of beautiful letters from an American friend living in China. Julie’s letters recounted heart-warming stories of her two vegan sons, Felix and Wyatt (who were six and four years old at the time).
When we read these, we were determined to publish them on our website so that everyone could be inspired by these beautiful acts of altruism.
Well, we’re finally doing it.
This morning Felix, Wyatt, and I went to the farmer’s market. Our original plan was for us to buy our weekly groceries, plus Felix and Wyatt were going to spend their allowance to buy the ingredients for a tofu cheesecake, their favorite dessert. I made one over the weekend that we ate so fast it was like it never existed, and the boys wanted more. So, I told them they could use their allowance for the ingredients and I would make the dessert.
We went to the farmer’s market that sits behind the school, and is our main source for all our fruits, grains, and vegetables. It’s all direct from the farmer and we know all our favorite sellers well. In addition to the farmers’ tables where the produce is sold, there is also a live animal market with chickens, ducks, geese, fish, and the occasional pig. The animal market is at one end of the large covered outdoor area and the produce is at the other end.
While I was negotiating the price of the tofu and other veggies that I buy from the tofu man, I noticed Felix and Wyatt pointing and talking about something. They were out of earshot from me, and I wondered what was up. It looked like a conspiracy to me. After I bought my produce, I went to see what they were doing.
They led me over to the corner of the animal market, where in a tiny cage, there was a rat. The man at the market explained it was a rat for eating, and that he would gladly slaughter it for me. I said, no thank you. He said it made delicious soup and he would even boil the fur off for me. (There are many gas stoves set up at the market with pots of hot water for boiling the feathers off the poultry. The first time Felix and Wyatt witnessed this it was startling for them. That’s another story.)
Again I said, no thank you, to the man who wanted to sell the rat.
In the meantime, the creature was squeaking and squealing and obviously terrified. I would be too, if I were in a cage at a food market!
Felix and Wyatt looked up at me and asked if they could use their allowances to buy the rat. I told them we couldn’t have it for a companion, and that we already have a dog. Felix asked what would happen to the rat. I told him the truth, that the rat would be sold for someone to eat. He looked deeply saddened. Wyatt and Felix looked to me, then the rat, then each other, then at me, then at the rat. I told them we would go to the small grocery store and get the other things we needed and talk about it.
We walked to the store and talked about the rat. Felix and Wyatt said they wished to use their allowances to buy the rat and set it free. They said they didn’t want to buy the cheesecake stuff anymore, they wanted to go back and use their money to buy the rat. They insisted.
So, I bought the remaining cheesecake ingredients, since I really wanted some too, and we returned to the market.
The man said the rat was 2Yuan. Each kid put in a buck and we bought the rat. We walked around the corner from the market, into the large field that borders the canal that passes through the school and goes down the street. I carefully opened the cage and the rat took off into the field like there was no tomorrow; which there wouldn’t have been if the boys hadn’t seen him.
I am not sure who had the stronger look of happiness, Felix or the rat. I was filled with love for the boys for having made so compassionate a decision. Felix then added as we walked home with our veggies, and cheesecake makin’s, that he wanted to use his allowance every week to save a few animals from the market.
He asked how many chickens one could buy for 10 Yuan. I told him we would look into it and see what we could do. Felix then told me he wanted me to go straight home to tell everyone what he had done, so there you are.
Talk about a day-making event!
We made the rounds at the farmers’ market, and on our way out we noticed that in addition to the various and sundry fish that were floating around in various stages of consciousness (or not) the lady had these wonderful turtles.
There was one who was stretching and straining at the concrete walls of the pool he was in with about 20 catfish. There were others too, but they were hiding and looked terribly dry. This one was so determined to get out of this pen, but he kept sliding back in to be trampled by the catfish, only to fight his way to the top of the pile. It was like he was conquering the masses to climb the Great Wall.
The boys gave me the puppy dog eyes and begged me for their allowances, and promised to do extra chores around the house this week to cover any difference in the price. We bought him, at a hefty tag of 30Y, which is this week’s allowance and half of next week’s.
We brought him home and rushed him out to the Lotus Pond, as he was already drying out. When he was let out of the bag, he rushed to the cool, shaded waters of the lotus and dived right in.
The boys cheered and whooped! It was a great sight to see. Terence, they named him, started to swim to the depths of the pool, then turned back around to look at us. It was as though he waved one front claw at us before he disappeared into the shadows of the pond. We watched him go and he looked happy.
PS: Eight years later, Felix and Wyatt are now 14 and 12, and both are very active, healthy vegans. Felix is in community theater and sings opera. Wyatt is in select baseball and trains younger players in the community.
Thanks to Julie, Felix and Wyatt for these wonderful stories.