Words to live by

It was the end of a weekend-long conference for librarians and they were enjoying a celebratory awards banquet. Their spouses were included as were some authors who were seated at random tables and encouraged to chat with the librarians. Being an author, that’s how I found myself waiting for a meal, surrounded by strangers.

This event goes back fifteen years. For dinner we’d been given a choice of salmon or beef. I’d chosen salmon but had noted that there wasn’t a vegetarian option which would have been my preference.

When the meals arrived I was surprised to see that the man beside me received a plate of pasta, and it looked delicious.

“I didn’t know pasta was an option,” I said, trying to mask my plate envy.

“I requested a vegetarian meal,” he said, which I thought bold as he was simply the guest of his wife, a librarian. Being the cowardly person that I am, and being a guest, I wouldn’t have wanted to rock the boat so if I’d been served a meat other than fish, as had happened in the past, I would have given it to someone else and filled up on bread.

In those days I was always delighted to meet another vegetarian, we were so few in number, so I asked this man how long he’d been eating plant-based. I’d noted that his wife had chosen the beef option.

“Just a couple of months.”

“Really! What inspired you to take the leap?” I asked, truly curious about why some people adopt a plant-based diet even when their partners don’t. I know from experience that it makes meal planning more complicated.

“One day,” he said, “I just decided that enough was enough.” He didn’t elaborate, just tucked into his meal which I must say smelled as good as it looked. He gave me the impression that he didn’t want to discuss the topic further so I began to eat my own meal, wishing I’d also been brave enough to ask for a vegetarian option.

Enough is enough. 

That’s all he said, but his words have stayed with me over the years. I didn’t ask, but clearly he’d seen and heard the literature that promotes plant-based diets. He’d likely learned about the horrors of factory farming and the significant contribution of beef agriculture to global warming. So why don’t more of us say that – enough is enough – when we realize that our behaviour and lifestyle choices are incongruent with the health of the planet?

If it were only so simple. Life is complex. Systematic change is difficult. We don’t think that our individual actions will make a difference.

But that quiet man, that lone vegetarian at the long banquet table, he decided that he was no longer going to stick with the status quo. His individual action impressed me. Our actions speak louder than words. He didn’t feel the need to explain his choice, except to say those three words. And because of people like him, vegetarian and even vegan options have now become mainstream.

Enough is enough.

Words to live by.