It sometimes takes me by surprise that I have now lived in small town southern America longer that I have lived outside of it. There is much I love about American and southern culture and small town life has some distinct benefits but I still often feel like a fish out of water. There are still things that I don’t understand and that feel very foreign to me. One of the challenges, and benefits, of being a Third Culture Kid (TCK) is that I never feel truly at home in any one place or culture.
One thing I have struggled with for years is the culture of consumerism that is such a part of the fabric of American life. I have swung the pendulum from participating fully without guilt (buying as much as I could for as little money as I could without regard for the human or environmental cost of my consumption) to being paralyzed with guilt over every purchase and every dollar that I spent. Over the years I have come to a more balanced view.
I have been given a life in a country of extreme wealth. Our family, with my husbands modest teachers income, is extravagantly wealthy compared to 80% of the world’s population who live on less than $10 a day. I am able to feed my children nourishing food, give them clean water, and bring them to a doctor when they are sick while every day 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. This life I have been given is not a mistake and it does not need to be a source of shame or guilt. But it is a gift. And I believe that with this gift comes responsibility.
I still remember the first time I stood in the aisle of the grocery store and chose not to buy chocolate chips or chocolate candy because that store did not have any fair trade options. It was a small decision but it felt monumental. It was the first time I decided I would not buy a non-essential item for my family if I knew that my money for that product was contributing to slave labor. As I walked away from the store without my favorite treat I felt joyful and empowered. I realized that every time I spent money I was making a choice. So I began to do research and my journey into Fair Trade began.
Americans are consumers. I am a consumer. I like to buy pretty things for myself, others, and my home. But I can choose to consume responsibly, thoughtfully and not at the price of others. That is the premise behind the global Fair Trade movement: a movement whose goal is to help producers in developing countries to get a fair price for their products so as to reduce poverty, provide for the ethical treatment of workers and farmers, and promote environmentally sustainable practices.
As a Christian I believe that all God is making all things new and that I get to be a part of that. So why not take part in redeeming how we consume?
That is the purpose of the Fair Trade Friday club. Fair Trade Friday is a monthly subscription. A small cost gets a box of fair trade goodies sent to your door automatically every month. Of the money you spend 100% of the proceeds goes directly to the women who made the items in the box so they can provide for their families, feed and educate their children. When we buy Fair Trade we get to push back against the 22,000 children a day that die due to poverty. We get to be part of bringing redemption.
Fair Trade Friday has various subscriptions available (you can check them out here) as well as an Earring of the Month Club (which I will give more details about in another post). I encourage you to check out their website and look around.
If you have never considered the cost of consumption may I encourage you to begin to ask God to begin to work in your heart. Find some blogs, check some books out from the library (The Story of Stuff is a good place to start). Have courage to be educated about the cost of consumption, not in order to become guilty or ashamed but to become empowered. To begin to see your part in the exciting work of redeeming lives through redeeming the way we consume.
God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. -Ephesians 3:20 The Message.
I will be posting more about this topic in the next week or so – sharing more of my journey, giving more information, answering questions, and showing you my lovely fair trade earrings.
Have you considered fair trade products? Do you have any questions you would like to see answered in a future post?
(The Fair Trade Friday Club is a ministry of Mercy House Kenya.)