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People Like You

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The Southern Hemisphere summer is over. It’s the time of year when Gentle World’s volunteers return from Shangri-La, our New Zealand location, back to Hawaii.

It’s hard to believe that only one week ago, I was admiring the natural beauty in New Zealand, but I knew then that in a matter of days, I would be wishing I could look at the same scene, and feel the same way. Looking around at the display of magnificent green, I was filled for a moment with a profound sadness that we were soon to be parted from this enchanted place.

The last two weeks are always hard – previously clear sunny days now becoming gray and damp, the morning chill turning warm breath to visible vapor, and the pale afternoon light a sorrowful reminder that the summer season is well and truly gone and that these remaining moments are precious indeed… Did I use my time wisely? Will I be sorry that I didn’t take one more walk, or swim once more in the river, or contemplate the view from the hilltop one last time?

More important though, will I be able to hold on to the changes I have made? I think I’m a better person after four months of communing with the wonders of Nature, but what about when the tranquility exists only in my memory? Have I let it in deeply enough?

Thankfully, when Shangri-La sinks into its winter hibernation, resting from the busyness of the summer season, we Gentle Worlders are fortunate to have another haven from the madding world, on another island in the middle of the Pacific: The Island of Hawaii.

Gray, damp weather and dim light have now turned into bright, warm, long days with the promise of summer around the corner. Rustic living has been replaced with modern comforts and conveniences, and we are fulfilling four months of cravings for dairy-free ice cream, veggie burgers, and other vegan comfort foods that haven’t yet made it to the Southern Hemisphere.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to go from 454 acres to under two, when you feel you had just begun to open up to life in an expansive natural wonderland. And it’s hard to say goodbye to people with whom you have shared experiences that bridge your souls… Once again, the Shangri-La summertime worked its magic on the people who visited us as volunteers and guests. What is that mystical combination that makes some people embrace veganism, while others simply close their eyes and hearts? It remains a mystery, but as long as some people still get it, I can hardly think of anything that brings me more joy.

When people experience the vegan awakening, it’s awe-inspiring to live alongside them as their thoughts and feelings begin to shift… Suddenly someone sits down beside you and starts to express their new perception, speaking the feelings of your own heart in an almost confessional tone, describing something that they used to do and how it made them feel, and how grateful they are to see it all so differently now. Someone else asks you a perceptive question about an obscure animal ingredient in food or clothing, or even something like alcohol or photography, and you know they have become serious about avoiding items of exploitation wherever possible.

Every day spent immersed in a vegan world removes another layer of the veil of illusion. And as each of our new friends from around the globe expresses the realizations they are having about animals and our relationship with them, we have the opportunity to share in their epiphany. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.

Sometimes it feels like we’re talking to a population that is simply too closed off to feel, and sometimes it feels like nothing will ever, ever change, and sometimes it even feels like there’s no hope for anything at all anymore. But then, there are people like you. People who do understand, people who do want to do what’s right, people who do believe that the beauty of this world belongs to us all.

And it reminds me that this is why we do what we do… This is why it is so important for us to make our homes in the most beautiful places we can find, to open them up to others, and to pour our energy into cultivating these spaces and building our sanctuary; not only for ourselves – though it’s a fitting reward for those of us who are dedicated to manifesting this dream – but for all who have the opportunity to climb on board for a week, or a month, or a year, and see what it feels like to live in a vegan family of people who want to bring out the best in us all.

Who will be next, I wonder? What unsuspecting individual will stumble into the magical reality of our Island home, and find their mind and heart opening up to a new understanding of the world around them?

Honestly, I can hardly wait to find out.

In the meantime, we are setting the stage – cabins are being spring-cleaned and freshened, the garden is being woken from its seasonal rest, and new starts are being planted and tended to…

And thankfully, though Shangri-La is being put to sleep for the winter months, it will still be there when we return in the spring; ready to welcome us and whomever else shows up on our doorstep.

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