You know how the timing of things sometimes lines up just right, and you can feel God working on your heart? Well, that happened to me a little over a week ago, and it’s so exciting that I need to write about it.
I have this really cool friend named Molly. She’s a former US Army helicopter pilot, currently married to a US Army helicopter pilot, and she is also a fantastically talented writer. So, Molly writes a blog called All the Grace Between (www.allthegracebetween.com). Her words are always eloquent, beautiful, and convicting. I’m blessed by her blog every time she posts.
A couple weeks ago, Molly announced that she is going to begin doing something called “Fair Trade Friday,” where she highlights a business that is making a difference by treating workers fairly. When I read the blog regarding why she was beginning Fair Trade Friday, it was very convicting. It made me question what I was buying that involved unfair trade practices, or straight up slavery. I wanted to know how I could make a difference, too.
Fair Trade Friday was already on my mind as I made my way to the IF: Gathering in Austin last weekend. Little did I know, Molly’s blog was starting something in my heart that would be made clear later that week.
During session two of IF:Austin, Ann Voskamp, with her poetic words and voice that sounds like a mixture of cashmere and honey (I swear!), began a message that pierced my heart with prose that still echoes in my memory.
She took the stage and removed her boots. Barefoot, she went from standing and speaking softly, to kneeling and begging God to hear the collective cry of the people in the room. Her words were so beautiful, and I was making such an effort to soak them in, that I forgot to take notes. But, in her cries, she talked to God about slavery. Specifically the slavery that goes into making “luxury items” for people like me. Chocolate, cell phones, coffee—all are manufactured or produced using child slaves.
Ann talked to us about 1 Samuel 7:3—
“So Samuel said to all the Israelites, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines."
Rid yourselves of foreign gods… another way of saying foreign gods is “false idols.” False idols are anything that replace God in your life. One way (of many) that I processed 1 Samuel 7:3 is that my idols may be something that was more important to me than God’s people.
Suddenly, Ann’s message, and Molly’s blog collided. How have I let my idols (chocolate, coffee, clothing, etc), become more important to me than the people who are responsible for producing them? God’s people. And, most importantly, what can I do about it? How can I rid myself of them? I decided to change some things right away. Starting with the “easy” stuff.
Thankfully, Molly gave me my first in. Right now, she’s reviewing fair trade items on her blog during Fair Trade Friday, so I know whatever products she writes about are ethically produced. YES! She’s already posted one blog about The Root Collective (www.therootcollective.com) and their mission to enable small business owners in developing countries. Read it! Then stay tuned for her next Fair Trade Friday happening later this week.
The next thing I did was some research of my own. You should probably know that when I say “research” it means completely-obsess-until-my-eyes-fall-out. Joe literally thought I turned into a crazy person who was going to make him wear hemp underwear.
I have to be honest, my biggest concern was with coffee. Coffee’s in my blog name. It makes me think the thoughts. It is essential to my life. So, I started with Westrock Coffee (www.westrockcoffee.com), which can be purchased online. They’re a direct trade company, and their coffee is awesome! It was served at IF, so I got to try it out in Austin. If you aren’t cool with shopping online, or if you just need to smell the coffee aisle in your grocery store, simply take a minute to look for the fair trade label on the bag you’re buying. Don’t see one? Put it back, and find one that has the fair trade label. Is it two dollars more than the other coffee? Who cares? Put it in your cart. See what I did there?
Chocolate was another issue for me. We don’t eat a ton of chocolate around here, but I do make chocolate chip cookies at least once a month. Plus, during holidays, when chocolate makes its way into baskets or stockings, I’d like to make sure I’m buying responsibly. I did end up finding some slave-free chocolate chips online, and many choices for a solid bar of chocolate. My local H-E-B, Ikea, and the commissary all had more than one option! Sadly, none of my go-to chocolatiers are fair trade participants. I’ll miss you like crazy, Peanut M&Ms, it’s been a good thirty-two years.
One thing I noticed as I was shopping around for my new, beneficial-to-human-life products was that they’re a little more expensive than picking up what’s on sale, or buying a store brand. They are also harder to find, and there are less choices. And I get it. I have a family on a budget, too. I’d like to be in and out of the store quickly, as well. But, even we all just change one thing in our shopping cart (or buggy if you’re southern), that makes a difference. What if, collectively, we decided to say NO. No, you may not use that child to produce my coffee. No, that child will not work in squalor in order for me to have a piece of chocolate. No, you may not have my money until you right this terrible wrong.
I think, if we all did that, we could create change. Maybe we could even start a little revolution? Maybe if we rid ourselves of our false idols, and start fighting for God’s people, the world will take notice? I think so. And I plan to do my part.
Do you know of any fair or direct trade companies that provide goods while maintaining excellent treatment for workers? OR, do you know of some great companies that help people overcome poverty by providing them with a sustainable income?
I’d love for you to share links or company names in the comments, so others may join us in spending our money ethically!
Here are some links that I found informative:
www.allthegracebetween.com – Molly’s blog. You should subscribe to it.
www.therootcollective.com – a good place to start making ethical purchases
http://www.betterworldshopper.org/idea.html -- Here you can choose products that are ranked based on ethical practices. This has been helpful!
www.foodispower.org – Statistics about child slavery in the chocolate trade, as well as other information on making ethical food choices. There is also a list of all “approved” chocolate, as well as what to avoid.