In church this morning, this question was posed to those in attendance: “What do you value that makes you unique?” It’s an interesting thought. We all value something whether or not we realize it. How it makes us unique, however, is something I’ve never really thought about until recently. I ended up thinking about it all day and these are the things I’ve come up with. It may be blunt and direct, but I really don’t know how else to say them. I’m unique because my values align with my belief system and it’s important to find others who share them with you.
- Those who keep their word. If you tell me you’re going to do something, then do it. In words that all children (likely or should have) learned, don’t cancel just because something better comes along. It makes you a shady person and will catch up to you in the long run.
- Being yourself. Laugh. Joke. Smile. Don’t put on an act and be someone you’re not. It’s okay to not be perfect: No one is. Our imperfections together can create a remarkable friendship.
- Sustainability. I find importance in recycling; bringing your own silverware, straws, and reusable bags everywhere; and trying to find ways to cut down my waste. I have a long way to go and will never be “zero waste,” but I do 100% believe in living a more low-impact lifestyle that’s better for you and the planet. If you don’t have a reusable bag, find one secondhand or sew one out of a t-shirt: They make AWESOME grocery bags. Buy one reusable stainless steel or glass water bottle and take it everywhere you go. The conversation on how detrimental plastic water bottles are for the environment isn’t for this post, and while I see a purpose for them in emergencies and for those who don’t have access to clean water, they are completely and utterly a waste for the average person who has water in the fridge dispenser or adequate tap water.
- Animal rescue. If you still believe that going to a breeder (backyard or not), a pet store that won’t show you the mother dogs or tell you where the puppies came from, or an Amish Farm are the only ways to get your “perfect” pet, think again. I encourage you to set foot in a shelter and sees the faces of creatures who have been let down by mankind. Look up Libre’s Law in Pennsylvania and see how a throwaway puppy on an Amish form set the course for animal protection in a state with some of the worst puppy mills in the country. Look at the euthanasia rates of dogs and cats each year in the United States alone because people 1) don’t spay and neuter their pets, 2) consider animals disposable, or 3) think that someone else will take them. The ASPCA estimates that out of the 1.5 million dogs and cats surrendered to a shelter each year, 670K (dogs) and 860K (cats) are euthanized. The fact that people continue to support industries where spending hundreds of dollars is acceptable but an $85 adoption fee isn’t because the animal may not be “perfect” is a load of crap. I’ve seen too many dogs bought from breeders end up at shelters for various reasons, so reasons mean literally nothing. Like with the plastic bottles, this post isn’t for an animal debate, but it’s certainly worth mentioning.
- Supporting small businesses the best you can. Large businesses get your dollars because they’re the norm: They don’t need your dollars to survive. Small businesses do, and I believe in supporting them when it’s feasible to do so.
- Honesty. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
I’m certain there are others that I failed to mention, but these are the top five I was able to think of today. The challenge wasn’t realizing my values, but a) finding those who share the same or similar ones and b) living out these values when those around you don’t. I go to a dinner every week with friends and even though there’s perfectly good silverware in the drawers, plastic (that will literally exist forever) is always used because it’s convenient. I talk about my animals a lot because they’re basically my life, but no one can relate to seeing them overcome obstacles like Miner’s submissive peeing due to abuse and Leia’s nurturing personality because she once had puppies before ending up as a stray. When recycling is suggested, I’m looked at like I have three heads and then see the soda can get thrown in the trash. Aluminum can be recycled so easily and an endless number of times. It takes all I have to not reach in there to take it out and put it in my own recycling can. Why don’t I, you may ask? Because despite values, no one wants to be the odd ball out. It’s hard standing up for what you believe in, no matter how important they are to you. I tell Matt often that sometimes it sucks knowing so much. Is it better to live a life of ignorance (ignorance is NOT the same as not knowing: If you don’t know why single-use plastic is bad, ask. If you want to know why recycling is important, ask. Ignorance is totally different.) or research, study, and educate yourselves on things that matter only to feel like an outcast anyway? It’s easy to follow tons of pages online of others who share your values, but it’s often 10x more difficult to find them in real life.
One of my goals as I approach 30 is to stop caring so much about what people think. My values have shaped me into a social worker, rescue mom, doctor’s wife, clothing/shoes reseller (the clothing waste in this world is out of control), thrifter, and crazy couponer. Okay, I’ve calmed down on the coupons since discovering cash back apps, but my thrifty nature is still there. My values may not be the majority of those in the world, but I’m determined to start making them my normal. Instead of plastic silverware, I’m going to remember my reusable set this Thursday. I’m going to actually put a stainless steel straw in my car so I have one next time I go out somewhere. Stop talking, more action. Let’s do this.