One of the striking things for me at the recent BlogPaws conference was not only the number of people willing to go out on limbs for animals (or swing from dangling fabric), but how young many of them were. When the pre-teen took the stage and shared her dream of helping animals I wanted to hug her mother. After passing the half century mark I am beginning to lose the voice in my head that whispered, and sometimes shouted-

“Who are you to think you can ______(fill in the blank)?”

There seems to be no shortage of other voices echoing that question and providing me with reasons why I shouldn’t think I can. Knowing that there are young people who not only ‘think’ they can, but ‘know’ they can, is heartening.

I am no longer surprised by how startling few voices there are to encourage people who want to step out, try new things, make a difference. I’ve wondered if some remain quiet because they do not realize the power the sound of their encouragement can have. Even a simple ‘Go for it!’ can fuel someone for the next step in the process and a ‘How can I help you?’ lets them know they’re not alone on the journey.

When I worked with rescue groups in Puerto Rico, bringing street dogs to Vermont to find homes, I would hear criticism of the practice.

“Aren’t these dogs taking homes away from local dogs?”

Good question, but no, they are not. We brought over small dogs, of which there were few to none available at our local shelter. The people who came into the shelter and adopted the 5 lb Chi mix were not going to go home with the 70 lb lab in the run next door if the Chi wasn’t there. In fact the Chi got them into the shelter and may prompt them to make future donations. No local dog was not accepted into the shelter or put down because of lack of space. Also of note was that many of the stray dogs in Puerto Rico could trace their ancestry back to a puppy mill in the United States, or they themselves were products of these mills. They had been flown to Puerto Rico and sold in a pet shop, information the people complaining about getting dogs from outside our area were unaware of.

There were people who were incredulous that someone would be asking for donations of time or money to rescue and feed dogs when there were so many children who needed help. They asked why wasn’t I focusing on helping these children?

To this my response was, “There is lots to be done to make the world a better place. No one of us is able to do it all but each of us can do something. Find what moves you and act on it.”

Many of the people who took issue to the energy I put into dog rescue, were not doing anything themselves for the children they felt I should be putting my efforts into instead. Some were, but most were not, and of these many did not appreciate the irony of their reaction. Apparently it was easier to find fault with the work that someone else was doing rather than do some of their own, for the recipients of their choice. I am not saying this with any rancor, knowing that I can be guilty of this kind of reaction as well. I remind myself that just because I may not be interested in saving a centuries old building, preserving habitat for a rare slug, or care if a particular intersection has a stop sign or blinking red light, doesn’t mean that someone else cannot feel strongly, even passionately about these issues.

I try to offer encouragement to anyone putting time and energy into making positive change in the world. It’s the least I can do, don’t you think?

Be the change you want to see in the world.