Be My Global Vegan Neighbor: Inspiration from Mister Rogers & Others

Over the last few months, I’ve been wrestling with the identity of the Global Vegan Waffle Party. At points, I allowed myself to become drawn into just wanting it to be more popular, but now a primary goal is to make sure it continues to have a meaningful and relevant message. While I was jogging on a recent morning, thoughts on three events came together to create clarity.

First, Sunday, March 20 marked what would have been Mister (Fred) Rogers’ 83rd birthday. We live near his actual neighborhood in Pittsburgh, and I saw him in person a few times shortly after we moved here. I had intended to ask Mister Rogers out to breakfast or brunch—perhaps over vegan waffles—to pick his brain on many topics, but hadn’t acted quickly enough. Nonetheless, I found myself considering a few things about him as the birds chirped around me: he was vegetarian; he obviously emphasized the importance of being a good neighbor; and he reached both kids and grownups through his actions, which expressed important values.

Secondly, just a few weeks ago, we began foster parenting an infant girl, now 5 months old. We’ve received various types of support from neighbors and other nearby community members, who have brought us food, given us toys and other baby equipment, accompanied us for walks with the stroller, and occasionally stopped by to hold the baby while we get other tasks done. In other words, we’ve realized just how important this connectedness is.

Thirdly, the tsunami and earthquake in Japan occurred. This hit me not only due to its incredible magnitude, but because one of last year’s parties was in Tokyo, and because the philosophy of Kaizen, a suggestion for this year’s theme, actually originated in Japan. I could not have imagined the degree to which Japan itself would soon need to implement this philosophy to rebuild itself. And it will need to do this in the context of neighborly support—from immediate neighbors as well as global neighbors.

I’ve been heartened by the efforts that others are making to assist Japan with vegan (and even non-vegan) bake sales, building upon prior success in raising money for Haiti. This is a great action of global neighborliness. The concerns over dangers like radiation drift and adverse economic impact, regardless of validity, have also provoked further thinking about how close and connected we all are in our global neighborhood.

This all brought me back to what the waffle party was about in the first place, when we invited friends and neighbors to the first party in a small urban apartment. It was about celebrating and respecting connectedness, on several levels. The vegan and global additions are merely natural extensions of this. Veganism meshes with being a good neighbor and respecting our interconnectedness with other life—people and other animals. Connectedness on a smaller scale can provide the foundation to connect on a larger and more abstract scale. If we wish to continue to evolve and create a better world, neighbors will likely become increasingly necessary.

Thus, I’ve modified the waffle party description page to suggest values that we all consider, regardless of a given year’s suggested theme:

  • Neighborliness and Interconnectedness
  • Vegan Kaizen (originally suggested as an add-on to this year’s theme)
  • Kindness, Health, and Sustainability

Much of this is similar to key messages Mister Rogers sought to deliver, both through his show and the lifestyle he modeled. As we’ve become parents for at least the time being, I’ve also come to appreciate the importance of reaching people of all ages. This is something that many of the vegan waffle parties have already done, and will undoubtedly continue to do.

Won’t you be my global vegan neighbor?

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