I treasure my wonderful group of vegan friends and colleagues, people I know both on and off the internet. They provide a sanity-saving little oasis for me in this non-vegan world. They are also a source of information and inspiration, which I think helps me to be a more effective activist.

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where everyone shared our vegan values and goals? Where you could always find vegan food on the table and didn’t have to watch other people eating meat? How great would it be if no one made fun of your diet and lifestyle and not one person ever asked where you get your protein? This question came up a few weeks ago on Twitter: If you could live in a community where everyone was vegan, would you do it?

Unfortunately, for us ethical vegans, it’s just not an option. If we surround ourselves only with others who think the way we do, there isn’t much chance to be a voice for change.

My local animal shelter is one example. I love my volunteer time there and I get to connect with others in my community who care about animals. A few of us are vegan; most are not even vegetarian. Some of them will never make the connection between the animals we call pets and the animals we call food. But they are more receptive to discussions about factory farming than most other groups, and it’s good that there are some vegans on hand to get those discussions going.

I also belong to several online communities that are devoted to some shared interest—discussions about books, antiques, or various cultural issues. In some of these groups, I know I am the only vegan. It’s not always easy or comfortable. How many posts can you read about Thanksgiving menus—all including some poor dead turkey—without tearing your hair out?

But in addition to our mutual interests, I’m glad to be part of those groups for another reason. I suspect that a lot of these people don’t have much contact with vegans. They think we are from Mars. I like to believe that in some small way I am making the case that a vegan diet (and lifestyle) is not just for radicals living on the fringe of society.

I want people to know that someone who is just like them—who watches TV, eats too many potato chips, reads novels, goes to baseball games, collects antiques—can also be vegan and an animal rights activist. I’m not so much hoping to cultivate a positive image for veganism as I am trying to promote a normal image.

If we are not out in the world, and in touch with the culture of the world, we are missing opportunities to let people know that vegan diets are for everyone, and they can fit any lifestyle.