One day last October I walked down a long, dusty road into a poor Guatemalan village to wash the dirt off little feet. As the children came through the line, one by one, the grime was washed off their shoeless feet and replaced with a new, clean pair of TOMS shoes.
When Emily asked me to share why fair trade matters to me, it didn't take much thought to bring me right back to these little feet. TOMS shoes is one example of a company that not only produces fashionable products in fair working conditions, but goes a step further to give back to the very people who have so often been exploited by fashion: the poor and destitute of third world countries.
I've shared before on my blog that I definitely do not have this fair trade thing down 100%. I am a mother with not only myself to shop for, but three little ones that grow quickly and change sizes often. It's certainly not simple and my life would definitely be easier if shopping fair trade did not matter to me. As Emily has written about here and last week at my place, learning to shop ethically is a process and involves intentional decisions and hard choices.
And yet thinking of my own three little people really makes fair trade matter that much more: when I think of how our life might look if we weren't born in this country, if I had to make the choice to starve or send my children to work in degrading and abusive conditions for next to no money. Fair trade matters because children matter, because people matter and the work of their hands matters and has value that is worth a fair wage.
I also cannot escape the Biblical mandates for ethical treatment of workers, the poor, and orphans:
You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. (James 5:3-4)
Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees,to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. (Isaiah 10:1-2)
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4
Strong wording, isn't it?
We could excuse ourselves from these verses and say that we're not the ones making the laws or treating people unfairly, but ultimately, as long as we are consuming the products, we're giving our nod to the oppression.
Finally as a small business owner and handmade shop owner myself, I value the time and care that goes into crafting a product. I value the person behind the product and believe they should be compensated fairly for their work. Can you imagine if I spent all day, every day working on prints for my shop, and got paid pennies on the hour for my work? Or if I were a single mom and worked in a retail store, say stocking shelves for 10 hours a day, and brought home a $1 for the week's work? It would be cause for a lawsuit in America.
Fair trade matters to me because people matter to me. As a mother, as a worker, as a believer, and as a human being, I making the hard but totally worth it choice for fair.
What are your thoughts on fair trade? Why does it matter to you?
photo credit: Michele Lyn AultLauren is a young mom of three, Jesus follower, and wife of a youth pastor. She is proponent for all things fair trade + handmade and blogs at MERCY iNK as a passionate advocate for the least of these. Lauren designs Scripture prints for the mercy(iNK) print shop. > > > connect with Lauren on twitter or facebook.