“Without kindness and compassion, no matter what else you do in life, you are not a mensch, and you are not like a worthy and decent human being.”
You may be wondering, like I was, exactly what a mensch is and why you would want to become one. According to Leo Rosten, the Yiddish maven and author of The Joys of Yiddish, a “mensch” is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being ‘a real mensch’ is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.” In fact the term is used as a high compliment, implying the rarity and value of that individual’s qualities.
So how many mensches do you know in the animal rescue world? How many people can you name that embody the moral character and sense of what is right? I’ll bet you’re thinking that you know quite a few of them and maybe that you just might be a mensch yourself. You’re probably right. But I want to dig deeper than what you might see on the surface of some doing the morally right thing by helping animals. I want to suggest some qualities and characteristics that we should use to define animal rescue mensches.
Those that help others; without expectation
Helping out is by definition the meaning of the word volunteer. In one way or another we’re all volunteering in animal rescue. Even if you’re in a paid position in a local animal shelter, you’re likely making a lot less than if you were working in a Fortune 100 company down the road and yet you are choosing to be there to help animals. But does that make you an animal rescue mensch? Merely showing up to work, or volunteering your time at a local animal rescue? What about if you’re running an animal rescue? You must be an animal rescue mensch then right? The true test of this designation in my mind is in how you are committing your time to help the animals. Are you doing it with expectations or are you helping others without a thought for how they can help you in return? Too many animal rescue organizations are focused on competing with each other instead of collaborating on our common goal of saving more animals. They are often more focused on ensuring their brand or their logo is front and center in the event that it might lead to more donations. But in doing so they end up tarnishing their image and are not worthy of being called mensches in my mind. Having the right attitude and purpose is what differentiates the animal rescue mensches from the rest of us.
Reducing the drama; striving to be a peacemaker
The second quality that I believe defines an animal rescue mensch is one that may be difficult for many to achieve. An animal rescue mensch is one that focuses on taking the drama out of animal rescue and further strives to bring peace to the often crazy, dramatic world of animal welfare. Animal rescue mensches strive for collaboration not competition. They seek out the passionate and focus their energy on the logic. They avoid arm waving and terms like “Code Red” and “Super Urgent” because these terms just add more noise to an already chaotic and often depressing state of the world. Our mensches are leaders among the masses, bringing peace and stability to the flock.
Always striving to be a better person
Whether you believe in a particular religion or not, the concept of striving to be a better person is one you can wrap your head around. Many religions use this type of wording to explain how their messiahs or prophets were, in an effort to get us to emulate positivity and to focus on making ourselves better. There’s no hard and fast definition of ‘better’ but animal rescue mensches see this betterment as a journey, not a destination. A philosophy and not a certificate of completion. After all, if you won’t be better tomorrow than you were today, what do you need tomorrow for?
If you know someone who is a true animal rescue mensch, please tell them. Thank them for what they do and for how they not only live their life, but lead others in the animal rescue world. If you are an animal rescue mensch yourself, THANK YOU. I for one admire and appreciate your dedication and focus on helping animals.
I would welcome the chance to meet you and learn from you so please reach out to me below.