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As a child, I always had an active imagination. In my adulthood, I grew to have a love for the arts, particularly theatre. Being onstage meant I could whisk myself away to the worlds of other characters. Well, even though I’m not on the stage anymore, I think I still must have a highly active imagination, because I tend to make things into a bigger deal in my mind than they really are. I don’t consider myself to be a pessimist, or glass-half-empty type of person, but the scenarios I conjure up in my mind always prepare me for the worst. That’s probably why it took me so long to decide to leaflet for the first time. That, and, despite my theatrical experiences, I really am an introvert at heart.

In my mind, I assumed leafleting meant a guaranteed moment where some omnivore, more like hard-core carnivore, would shove my leaflet back in my face while towering over me as he lashed out, “Get this propaganda out of my face! You vegans are brain-washers. We humans are meant to eat animals. And you have no right to tell me what to eat or force your ideologies on me.” Yes, it’s been a pretty disparaging scenario in my mind for some time; not a very kind image to have of my fellow human beings. So in an effort to get over my worry, work outside my comfort zone, and to both help the vegan message and the animals, I decided 2015 would be the year I just did it. Fortunately, I had the help of some pretty experienced and encouraging Compassion Over Killing volunteers to take me under their wings.

Originally, I thought it would just be myself and the two other volunteers, but once a Facebook event was created for this particular volunteer opportunity, other volunteers signed up, too. We all met at a designated place and time, each took our stack of pamphlets, picked an area to distribute to, buddied up, and just did it.

As I was walking to the area I would leaflet, I asked my volunteer friends for a few pointers — what to say, mostly. Once we arrived at our little area to cover, I watched my friends “do their thing” for a minute or two. Finally, I took a deep breath, extracted one single pamphlet from my stack, walked up to a total stranger, smiled, and in a clear voice said: “Would you like a free recipe booklet?” The majority of these strangers said,

“Sure. Thank you, ma’am.”

And that was it. That’s as crazy as it got. Quite a different experience from the one I had pictured in my mind, to say the least!

I am sure as I continue to volunteer my time leafleting, and I do intend to, there will be a person here or there that will challenge me in the moment. But I’ve got to face those fears because, hey, haters gonna hate. The worst experience I could possibly have with an asinine person is nothing compared to the abuse, violence, and death billions of innocent animals experience. That’s the real truth. That’s the big picture. That is not imagination.

If you’ve never leafleted before but would like to, here are some tips I can share with you based on my experience. And…if you have a tip I should add, be sure to let me know in the comments below, on Facebook, or tweet me!

  1. Be proactive. Reach out to the group you would like to leaflet with either in person or via email. Many organizations even have a volunteer form you can fill out online.
  2. Check out this Guide to Effective Leafleting by Compassion Over Killing.
  3. Go with a group. There’s strength in numbers, plus it’s always safer to never go somewhere alone, particularly in an area that is unfamiliar to you.
  4. Be friendly and smile. If someone declines your literature, don’t make a face, except for a smiley face.
  5. Speak with a clear voice. In a high-traffic area, the areas you typically want to target, you usually only have a moment to speak with folks. The more clear and concise your greeting/message, the better.
  6. Start small. Commit to leafleting for a length of time that feels sustainable to you.
  7. Dress appropriately for the weather.
  8. Make sure your fellow volunteers have a way to contact you, and vice versa, while you are spread out. You don’t want to lose track of each other.
  9. Bring a tote bag or backpack to hold your extra materials so that you’re not juggling too many handouts at once.
  10. Wear comfy clothing and shoes, but look friendly and approachable in your attire.
  11. If someone thanks you, say “You’re welcome!”
  12. Read the material you are handing out. Don’t just blindly pass out information you have know knowledge or understanding of.
  13. Ask your fellow leafleters for any tips they have from previous experiences.
  14. If you’re going to be out and about for a little while, bring some water and/or a snack to stay energized.
  15. Think about the location you’ll be at ahead of time — where there is parking, do you have to pay for parking, will you need cash, are there places nearby to eat and use the restroom, etc.

I’m super-stoked to be able to check this goal off my 2015 list — not that it’s the end of the line. I look forward to more opportunities to spread the vegan message and help animals over the course of time. I’m immensely grateful to the folks who were there with me to show me the way. I hope in time I can pay it forward 😉