Tribute to Bill Lewis, Friend, AdvoCat and Master Tour Guide
Bill died this week and I have been just too stunned to say anything. I had a long drive back from an outreach event in Maitland, FL tonight and had some time to gather my thoughts. If you ever came for a Friday afternoon tour of Big Cat Rescue, Bill was probably your guide.
Bill began volunteering in 1996 and was the longest serving volunteer who was not related to me, despite sharing the same last name, for the last 14 years. I really like this photo of Bill because it reminds me of what he considered to be one of his finest moments. If you just calculate 14 years of Friday afternoon tours, Bill probably influenced well in excess of 14,500 people with his passionate tours.
Social scientist say that each of us typically influences 150 other people in our lifetimes. His reach, just from his tour guests, through their circle of friends meant that he easily reached more than 2,000,000 people with the message that these cats should not be bred to be pets, props or parts. That's a lot of influence!
But what Bill told me was his greatest achievement for the cats was something any one of us could do in a moment of time. The difference is, that Bill wasn't afraid to rock the boat. He wasn't afraid to be scorned. He wasn't afraid of anything, as far as I could tell, but what I know about fearless people is this; they experience fear, just like anyone else, and they determine that what they want is more important than caving in to their fear, and they go for it.
What Bill did was to end the selling of fur at the MacDill commissary. Here's how he did it. He walked in one day and saw that they were selling fur trimmed garments. He asked to speak to the person in charge of buying. He told them about Raindance and some of the cats at the sanctuary where he donated his time. He explained to the buyer where fur comes from and he told them that it upset him to shop in a place that would support such abject cruelty to animals. That's all it took. The buyer agreed that they would no longer sell fur and went to his regional directors and asked that they do the same in the rest of the commissaries. It only takes one voice. Bill did his part. He made a difference.
April 10, 2010
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
Caring for cats – Ending the trade
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