“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Have you ever found yourself searching the internet for things to inspire you? Have you ever wondered how to inspire someone else? Are you surprised that 2,400 people search for “quotes about inspiring others” each month on Google? If you are like me you might be secretly hoping that they’re searching for inspiration to send to you.
But as we step back and look what has inspired us over the years, it becomes easy to see that the next generation of rescuers will need a new form of inspiration. What are you doing to inspire them?
Animal rescue is difficult, demanding and yet rewarding
The profession of animal rescue is often difficult and demanding. Volunteers spend countless hours every week helping care for animals. They walk dogs and clean cages at their local animal shelters, and transport animals through rescue relay transports, often thousands of miles to a better life. They network on Facebook, advocate for animals to friends and family, and have never ending energy when animals are involved. These same volunteers are the first to open their checkbook for an animal in need, and the last ones to turn off their phone (if they do) when they go to bed in the evenings. They are dedicated. They are inspired. They are fueled by their passions. They are rescuers.
We need to inspire the passion for animals with the next generation
Like so many other things in life, time passes and situations change and the state of animal rescue is much better than it was decades ago. No, we’re not there yet and there’s no sense in taking our foot off the gas, but the problems have shifted, and new challenges and new opportunities are there for helping resolve them. Yet many people resist change in general and specifically resist change in animal welfare. It is as though the way they have always done it is the best way, and the only way to help animals.
Much has been written about the changing of generations within the corporate world. The baby boomers are starting to retire en mass, and there are physically not enough Gen Xers to fill the positions thus leaving a gap and an opportunity for future generations to step up. Stereotypes abound about the willingness of the younger generations, often referring to them as “entitled,” or just flat out “lazy” due to over protective parents always catering to their every whim.
But we are in a unique position in the animal rescue world, in that we have the ability to inspire. Our cause for animals is pure. Our intentions are worthy. Our goal is crystal clear. If only we could get them to see things our way and do things the way we know works best. Why won’t they just listen?
Use your inspirational jiu-jitsu to ignite the fuel of passion for animals
It’s time for us to put aside our best practices and to open our minds to new thinking. We need to work to inspire the generations yet to come to want to help animals of all kinds. We need to stop telling them how to do it, and open our minds to their innocence and thinking.
But where do we begin? Here’s five steps you can take to help inspire and ignite the passion without smothering the flames.
Reward their vulnerability
It’s hard to verbalize the love that you have for animals. Too often you’ll hear “why do you love animals more than people,” or some other variation that leaves the listener feeling like their passion is misplaced. So the first thing you can do is reward the up and comers for being vulnerable and sharing their inspiration and passion with you. Provide them the safe space to share what fuels their desire to get involved and try not to judge their naivety about the situations.
Embolden them with confidence
It may seem counterintuitive given what has been written about the younger generations, but emboldening them with confidence to pursue their passion and to realize their inspiration will help to light the flame that can burn for years to come. Give them the confidence to explore their passion by volunteering a local shelter, researching and writing a school paper about animals, or riding along on a rescue relay transport. Show them that their feelings and instincts for animals are natural and should be celebrated.
Seed them with open-ended possibilities
Too often we try and direct the course of someone’s passion by saying things like “if you like animals, you should be a veterinarian.” Why are we constraining our thinking and thus constraining their thinking with a limited path to achieve their dreams? Not to take anything away from veterinarians but why not seed them with what if scenarios to stimulate their creativity, expand their thinking and recognize the enormity of the possibilities? Why not ask them open ended questions like:
– What happens when all of the animal shelters are empty?
– What needs to happen to help all of the dogs and cats find a home?
– How can people learn to respect and protect the animals in Africa, or India or even Antarctica?
– How can we use Pokemon Go, Music.ly and SnapChat to help animals?
When we seed the next generation with questions, possibilities and new problems, you cannot know where we’ll end up.
Credit them for taking initiative
Our society is rules based. We have come to expect it in every area of our lives. Creative thinking and taking initiative are often encouraged, as long as it is within the confines of our rules. How can we ignite the fuel and fan the flame of inspiration when we’re dampening the spirit? We should be recognizing them for taking initiative to care for animals and to want to help. We should be thanking them for even the littlest tasks such as showing empathy and love for animals. We should remove our calloused expectations that we’ve grown over the years, and expose the joy and thankfulness that our life lessons are being learned.
Unbridle the passion
When you bridle a horse, you are putting the constraints and control necessary to command the direction of travel. Stop trying to constrain the passion for animals with what we have done and instead unbridle it to see what it could become. What if the next generation could solve the problems our generations never could? Isn’t that what we’ve always wanted?
Encourage their curiosity to imagine
Every child was born imaginative and inquisitive and curious about their world. Just look into a room of kindergartners to see what curiosity looks like. Somewhere along the way to adulthood, we learn that curiosity is good to a point, and imagination is great but it doesn’t pay the bills. Yet we don’t allow for flexibility in our other passion areas of life so we inadvertently squash the imagination and train ourselves that dreaming is a waste of time.
Encourage the next generation to dream; inspire them to believe.
Together we can save more animals.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. And if you are curious, yes it was intentional that the first letter of each of the five steps does indeed spell rescue. I hope that this post can help you to inspire more rescuers to join our profession and help more animals. We have come so far and yet have so far to go.