Something’s Gotta Give. (Part II)

>>> After rereading this blog, I realized it is much more of a call to action (perhaps for myself) than a spilling of my thoughts. But the call to action pours directly out of my thoughts, concerns, and internal conflicts. So instead of only laying out my mental musings, this blog post presents somewhat tangible reactions to those thoughts, which help illuminate the thoughts even more. <<<

Maybe after reading Part I of “Something’s Gotta Give” (scroll under this post if you haven’t read it yet) you think something like: ‘Giving to those in need is good, but I still want to buy gifts for friends and family. Even if they don’t need them, it shows I care.’ Yes, gifts are a great way to show you care, and this too can be done in ways that benefit others.

Perhaps the worst effect of consumerism is that it can contribute to the suffering of others. This has begun to disturb me to the point that I can’t look at purchases or even gifts I receive the same way. The other morning I unwrapped an advent gift and found a beautiful pair of silver earrings. But here’s what happened in my mind: “Those are so pretty. Were they made in a sweatshop?”

You see, “Those were so pretty” came first. My initial reaction was still one of consumerism, or more positively, a reaction to superficial beauty.

But what lies beneath the façade of beautiful jewelry? Is it a working child? An underpaid mother? If the jewelry is created in such a way that devalues humans and strips them of their beauty or their dignity, how can the end result be sincerely beautiful? How can I wear those earrings without thinking of the slaves who made them? Or the underpaid and starving people who operate the machinery they’re produced on? Something has to give.

This leads me to my unabashed call for fair trade purchases. Fair trade includes environmental concerns, forbids child labor and forced labor, and pays fair prices to producers or artisans. (See the link at the bottom for a complete list of fair trade standards.[i]) Forced labor is especially common in coffee and chocolate production, where fair trade has perhaps gotten the most publicity. Other organizations offer fair trade clothing, jewelry, toys, and more (some example companies are listed below).

I’ve recently been learning more about fair trade products, and am trying to make more fair trade purchases. It can be challenging, and I haven’t yet found a way to do so with all or even most purchases, but it’s definitely something worth working towards.

Many of you may be done shopping for the holiday season, but if there are still people on your list, would you consider one of the fair trade organizations listed below? When you give to family and friends, would you consider also giving dignity and livelihood to those who produced the good? What a blessing this could be!

Fair Trade Organizations:
(Some products are more expensive than others, if you’re looking for a great deal you’ve got to shop around – but isn’t that true of most places?)
http://fairtradeusa.org/holidays
http://www.tenthousandvillages.com
www.globalgirlfriend.com
http://www.noondaycollection.com
www.freesetglobal.com
www.equalexchange.coop
http://www.deansbeans.com/coffee/index.html
www.yellowlabeltoys.com

>>> Please comment below with any thoughts or ideas. Thanks for reading! <<<

Fairtrade cotton farmer, Ibrahim Keita, 28, in Batimakana, Kita, Mali©Simon Rawles

Fairtrade cotton farmer, Ibrahim Keita, 28, in Batimakana, Kita, Mali
©Simon Rawles

Something’s Gotta Give. (Part I)

>>> After editing this blog, I realized it is much more of a call to action (perhaps for myself) than a spilling of my thoughts. But the call to action pours directly out of my thoughts, concerns, and internal conflicts. So instead of only laying out my mental musings, this post presents somewhat tangible reactions to those thoughts, which help illuminate the thoughts even more. <<<

     As I told a friend recently, I’ve been thinking through a lot lately. Much of which centers on consumerism, injustices, and fair trade (I’ll get to fair trade in Part II). Don’t give up on me just yet. I don’t mean to scare you off by sounding too idealistic or extreme in the words below. But please hear me out. Something’s got to give.

     How many gifts have you bought this season? How much money have you ‘saved’? I’d say I’ve bought about 12 gifts thus far (not too mention the random assortment of products I’ve bought for myself). And how much money has this added up to? Roughly $100. As I look at these numbers I think, ‘Hey, that’s not half bad’. But there’s something bigger going on here. None of my friends and family need the things I am buying for them. This is not a problem in and of itself. I mean, giving gifts can be a great way to show people you care about them. The tragedy is that there are people, all around this world, and in our own towns, who actually need gifts. They don’t have enough money to fill their kids’ lunch boxes, let alone put a Christmas dinner on the table. Beyond mere poverty, people suffer from forced labor (an estimate 2.5 million[i]). Disease also threatens many. As just one example, over 500,000 people died from Malaria in 2010[ii].

These statements are somewhat unrelated, but the basic point is this: There are people in this world in real need.

Why can I spend $100 on gifts for people who have plenty, while so many suffer? Given the prosperity in America and the unquenchable consumerism, something’s got to give. Something in my heart, something in all of our hearts, has to give. To let go of our desire for more, and to give others the more they need.

I know there are hundreds of options for giving at Christmas, and I’m sure many of you have taken advantage of these opportunities, and that is such a blessing. Maybe you gave gifts to Toys for Tots, or packed an Operation Christmas Child box. Maybe you bought baby chicks for a struggling family through Samaritan’s Purse or cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless last month.

At this season, when giving is often seen as little more than a task of gifting, I hope we may together remember how God has blessed us, and joyfully give to those in need. Not as another task on our list, but as an act of love.

I found this quote online recently, and I think it worth restating:
“Christmas is not your birthday.”
… or your friend’s, or sister’s, or father’s either.
>>> Please comment below with any ideas of how to give to those in need, or how to give more simply. Thanks for reading! <<<