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More Than: Val of VBV

September 7, 2010

Healthy living means so many things to me…

* Nourishing my body with lots of veggies and wholesome foods.

* Also feeding my body the occasional (or, sometimes frequent!) not-as-wholesome, yet delicious dessert or treat to maintain my sanity.

* Exercising to keep my heart healthy.

* Getting enough sleep so that I’m energized for next day.

* Training for marathons to keep myself challenged.

* Regular yoga practice to keep myself centered.

* Spending time with friends and family to keep myself happy.

None of those statements are abnormal.  Most people reading Heather’s fabulous and inspiring blog are familiar with the importance of eating well and exercising to feel healthy.

To me, another facet of healthy living is the importance of helping others.  Growing up, my parents would regale my sister and I with stories of their time living in Morocco while they worked in the Peace Corps.  As a child, while intrigued by their tales, I secretly thought my parents were crazy for spending years out of their life living in a third world country, living a bare bones lifestyle all in the interest of helping others who were less fortunate.

Eventually, my parents’ humanitarian ways rubbed off on me and I began volunteering my time, as well.  I soon realized that I wanted to make a career helping others, and I decided to be a social worker.

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I currently work as a school social worker with inner-city children on the south side of Chicago.  All of the children I work with are African-American or Latino, all come from very poor families, and almost all of them deal with very difficult situations (hunger, abuse, violence in the neighborhood) on a daily basis.

Many of my children have big hopes and dreams for themselves, but they face many barriers.  One of my favorite parts of my job is working with them to set goals and to build their self-esteem so that they can successfully overcome the obstacles that stand in there way.  I won’t go into the issue of race relations and the current inequalities in America, but we all know they exist.

Working with populations that are often stigmatized and shunned by society has made me realize how important it is for me to stick up for those who are often voiceless.  How can you help?

When you hear someone around you say something derogatory about a particular group, whether based on race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, say something!

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Volunteering your time is great, and I encourage you to do so (and if you would like any ideas about how you can work with children in your neighborhood, please email me!)  However, so many people pride themselves as “do-gooders” who volunteer, do the right thing, and don’t talk s*** about others, yet when they hear other people saying degrading or malicious comments about a group of people, they sheepishly nod their heads and passively agree with the speaker.

This type of tacid acceptance merely perpetuate intolerance in our society. Though equality has come further in 2010 than ever before, there is a long way to go.  Though it is often difficult to stand up to others (whether it’s a stranger or a loved one who is making the degrading statements) and to appear unpopular, it’s crucial never to compromise your own values because it’s the ‘easy’ way out.  In the end, your friends or family will respect you for the fact that you stick to your convictions.

In the food blog world, we always hear about how if we want improved change in the food and agriculture system, we need to use each meal to “vote three times a day”.  Each small decision we make effects greater change.  I’m asking you to please treat the subject of tolerance with the same importance that you place on your diet and exercise.  Please use your voice to bring us closer toward equality and peace for all.

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Vegan by Valerie where you can find her inspiring life to do list, amazing recipes and inspiration to make healthy decisions.  A few of Heather’s favorite recipes by Val; Pumpkin Spice Cookies, DIPS!, and Lime Corn-conut Rice. A few of Heather’s other favorite posts by Val; Moment, Choices & Gratitude, and Happiness.

You can also read Val’s tweets in 140 characters or less by following her twitter feed.

Then Heather Said is always on the look out  for fresh ideas on what Healthy Living means to other bloggers and readers who want to share their stories!  If you are interested in writing a More Than Series post for THS, please email Heather at thenheathersaid@gmail.com

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