Thanks to my mother, I am a classic Bargain Betty. If there is a deal to be found on a clothing or shoe rack, I will find it. I take special pride in the clearance rack – a Michael Kors sweater for $10.00, J Brand Jeans for $20.00, Tahari burgandy satin three-inch pumps for $30.00. I love a deal. And I like to follow a compliment with, “Thank you! I love them too and I got them for TEN DOLLARS!”
Now, before I lose the two males who read this blog, I think you get the idea.
In my line of work, there is a consistent education on greed and poverty. Information I do not necessarily want to assume responsibility for is constantly flooding my brain, coercing me to live indifferently or radically. Big numbers: 82,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County; 56,000 kids in the Foster Care system in California; 27 million slaves trapped in human trafficking.
As I’ve grown, the number shrinks. 82,000 boiled down to one new friend. 56,000 boiled down to one new adoption. 27 million boiled down to one incredible survivor. To know the one is to have a burden for the many. To love and change one life is to heal many.
These numbers bug me, but January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, so my thoughts are on the 27 million. That number has always felt intangible. I would sit sometimes, baffled over what to do about so many enslaved. How is this possible? How is this happening right under my nose? And what the heck can ordinary me do about it? Pitiful prayers, but one thing I’ve learned is that God loves, desperate, angry “Help me” prayers.
Eight years ago, I began to serve with Treasures, an outreach to women in the sex industry. And about four years ago, we started giving monthly financial donations to Treasures and A21 Campaign, organizations committed to holistic care for women in the sex industry or rescued from sex trafficking. And three years ago our outreach team began its monthly and now weekly involvement with Alexandria House, a home for women and children, some of which have been labor trafficked into the US.
Even after all of that, my conscious wouldn’t leave me be. We got involved with the “Call and Response” film campaign, learning that the majority of the 27 million are labor trafficking cases. Slaves making the coffee I drank, the chocolate I ate, the clothes I wore, the gold on my arm. I was devastated, without the courage or knowledge to do better or different, with no real way to make a significant lasting change.
Finally, last year about this time, my friend and outreach genius Tiffany Bluhm, thrust a book in my hands with a very sweet note and told me she loved it and I would too. It ruined my life forever. For good. 7 by Jenn Hatmaker.
I laughed. I cried. I grieved the greedy, materialistic nature in my own heart. I found it impossible not to change. I made a decision at the beginning of 2012, not to shop for a year. I really wanted to rid myself of the desire to buy things that upon closer inspection were made at the hands of children or slaves. And since I work with the homeless population in Los Angeles and most of what they have has been somebody else’s, I figured, my closet is full, and whatever I needed, I could trade at thrift stores.
This turned out to be almost 100% true. Aside from essentials: underwear, bras, white tank tops, socks, I had everything I needed all year long. A friend bought me a dress during the summer (I had no light clothing for the surprise HEAT wave) and toward the end of the year, I had yellowed all my white tanks, blown a hole in every pair of jeans but one, ruined lots of shoes, and was desperate for a bra. Another friend, who did not know what I was doing or the need that I had, came up to me with $100.00 to Nordstrom Rack, saying, “I was praying for you and felt like God asked me to give this to you.”
I love how God provides when we step out in faith.
So January 1st came, and I made my first purchase… Wedge sneakers from DSW. I’d practically lusted over them since September, and gift card in hand, bought them. Don’t worry, I am not going back to shopping as usual (although I’m definitely tempted!), but I will continue to shop at thrift shops and now am pursuing a slave free lifestyle.
Yes, the clothing options are limited and yes, most of what I am finding looks like it should be worn with Birkenstocks and tube socks, but it feels good to at least try to change – to not wear and eat cool things made by slaves. No, I can’t touch 27 million, but I can be ONE who chooses to change consumer demand and hopefully, I can inspire a few more to jump on the Birkenstock bandwagon. What do you think about this? Did you even know this was happening in our world today?
NEXT STEPS (FOR BRAVE HEARTS ONLY):
How many slaves are working for you? http://slaveryfootprint.org
Discover whether your favorite brands are slave free? http://www.free2work.org
Read 7 by Jenn Hatmaker: http://jenhatmaker.com
If you’re already pursuing this lifestyle, share what you’re learning… HELP A SISTA OUT! :). Praying for you and love you!