As we conclude a beautifully organic, simple 14-day plant-rich challenge, my thoughts shift to advocacy and I dig deep to understand the feedback and experience of those who have answered the invitation from places near and not-so-close. It was one sentence in particular from one of the “quieter” —near— participants that left me diving into the true meaning of advocacy and its power when it is entwined with purpose.
“Pain free, drug free, and full of energy.” —Suad Alaggad
I first met Suad at one of our Adventures of the Soul Community meetings. She was quiet, with a bright young face that channeled wisdom beyond her years. I am strongly drawn to quietness. This might explain the seemingly bizarre union I have with my husband, which at first glance appears completely mismatched. I am loud. I talk a lot (but really really working on it.) He is quiet, a man of a few words. [Forgive me, I digress.]
Suad came to our meeting to meet our guest Dina Husseini on the heels of our conversation in which she shared her journey with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Suad herself has been suffering from debilitating RA for a number of years. A few months later, when I announced the invitation to the Plant-Rich Challenge, she reached out to tell me that she had totally turned her life around since that day we met. She had been on a no-oil, whole-food, plant-based diet for months, with Dina’s help and guidance. She wanted to join our challenge anyway. “Pain free, drug free, and full of energy” was her feedback on day 14 with us —possibly day 100 for her. She continued,
“I’m off painkillers, cortisone, and all NSAIDs [non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs] because I barely feel joint pain. Still on Methotrexate on a lower dose. It needs a couple of months before I cut it totally.”
I believe Suad joined our challenge because she has become an advocate, even if she doesn’t know it herself yet. As Suad heals the layers of her illness, she uncovers parts of herself to herself. The life-changing lessons —for her and us— are usually hidden in the crevices of these layers, patiently waiting to be revealed and eventually shared. When we are fortunate enough to come out the other end of a painful experience stronger and healing, we become advocates of the most powerful kind: quiet, confident, and ultimately giving. Like Suad.
My struggle is with the calculated advocacy that arises from a place of no experience, but comfort, ease, and trend —and sometimes self-righteousness; the one that focuses on action and outcome, bypassing the individual experience and most importantly purpose. That impactful stage, what we can call awareness, is a vital passage to meaningful healing for the planet. Without it, we are just lunatics/extremists yelling from pulpits.
Our stories are important, not in the dramatic sense of course. They are of most value to us while we become curious and self-aware, as the lights along the dark corridor of our being begin to turn on one by one. When the path is finally lit, we realize we are right back where we started, only calmer, clearer, a lot braver. And healing.
I wonder if investing all we have in awareness can result in a profound shift in outcomes, for the planet and our well-being, as powerful as releasing our obsession with goals to embracing a quiet commitment to growth.
Suad’s story has become mine, in a way, in that it has softened me and helped me ask the right questions, when all along I had been searching for answers. She has helped me realize my purpose. It turns out I am not after changing minds after all. I cannot begin to explain the sense of relief that has transformed my being. It almost feels like the quietness I have been yearning for has —almost— found me.
I want to plant seeds, seeds of curiosity that open hearts, expand minds, and fuel limbs. The gift of seeds is that they are life-giving, and I am only interested in life.
Once we know, we know. And when we know, we become advocates. The effective kind, I hope, that shares generously but quietly, passionately but not impulsively from a heart that is knowing, giving, and confident. But first we need to know. And before that we need to acknowledge that we don’t.