Thursday, December 19, 2013

Challenge: Ethical Christmas

Putting the words 'Ethical' and 'Christmas' together is quite the statement. From a faith-based perspective, this simple phrase would have one epic meaning! From a live-my-life-without-slavery perspective, it can take on another. I believe the two go hand in hand to create a holiday season that remembers why we celebrate to begin with, and allows that remembrance and celebration to flow into how we purchase the goodies for our festivities.

I’m currently going through a series for Advent by She Reads Truth called Emmanuel. One of my favourite parts about the series is the daily “Advent Action.” Each day, after reading scripture and the accompanying devotion, you pray, then are given an Advent Action to perform. These actions are anything from listening to a meaningful song (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel being one of them) to baking a loaf of bread and writing meaningful letters to friends. Each action is meant to help you reflect and internalize what you read and learn as we lead up to the momentous occasion of celebrating the birth of Jesus.

(Side note: Does anyone remember, as a kid, people being all “there was no snow when Jesus was born so he obviously wasn’t born in December?” Oh a child’s view of 'rational' thinking haha)

The enjoyable advent actions from She Reads Truth have inspired me to come up with my own set of actions for you to complete to assist you have a holiday season that is positive in every way. While you take time to consider the amazing story of the birth of Jesus and what that truly means to us, I hope these actions will ensure you take that most meaningful moment and allow the love-filled sentiment to overflow into how you shop and celebrate this holiday season.

Action #1 – Read
Who doesn’t love stories—especially at Christmas?!?! 
I know I do! Enter into the scene; my love of just about every Christmas movie. 
Take some time to read the story of the birth of Jesus. It is amazing how Mary was all 'about-to-pop' pregnant, ridding to Bethlehem on a donkey, and gave birth to our savior in a stable. It’s a story that makes you go “This is ridiculous” in an amazing and incredible way. 
The fact slavery still exists makes you go “This is ridiculous” but in a whole different way. It’s not in the positive, awe-inducing passion the story of Jesus awakes inside of us. It’s in a negative ‘I’m amazed this still exists’ kind of way. Reading stories of individuals who have been caught in various forms of modern day slavery can help open your eyes to the reality many individuals are living in this exact moment. Read books like ‘Not For Sale’ by David Batstone, ‘Where Am I Wearing?’ by Kelsey Timmerman and ‘Disposable People’ by Kevin Bales.

Action #2 – Share
As soon as I started reading the Advent series by She Reads Truth I thought of a number of folks who would also love the series. I texted my mom, told a friend and even shared my enthusiasm with a co-worker. When something affects you, you feel the need to share with those around you. As you read stories about human trafficking and slavery, share the information with those you encounter. I know, I know, you don’t want to be the Debbie Downer at the staff Christmas party, at your family gathering, or while chilling with friends. No one wants to be ‘that’ person. How’s this for a suggestion, when people ask you what you’ve been doing lately, simply say you’ve been learning a lot about human trafficking and slavery, and share one of the stories you have learned along the way. Keep the positivity up by telling them of organizations, even those where you live, that are doing amazing things to address the situation!

Action #3 – Give
Give a gift of meaning. We all know people explore stores, seeking out epic gifts for those they love. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but while out and about visiting Ikea for my very first time ever, I stumbled upon a gift for my husband... which is AWESOME! It was a magical unexpected moment—the gift was not in my plan of items to give him, but this special surprise was something I couldn’t pass up! We all know part of the joy of shopping over the holiday season is finding the perfect gift, the hunt in stores or online, and knowing you will give the gift of glee to the recipient! When you give, give responsibly. Did you know that ethical chocolate DOES exist? Even stores like Target have fair-trade options! Instead of heading for the festive-and-probably-on-sale-shaped-like-Santa chocolate, head for a smart purchase of delicious chocolate, which supports individuals who are striving to live a life of dignity! Aiming to buy someone a cozy sweater, generic socks and underwear, or something trendy? Check out Free2Work and see what clothing companies are doing things right and commit to shop there this season. It can be hard to remember that quality trumps quantity when money can be tight and the reality of having many people to purchase for is dimming out your shiny festive spirit. Remember, no matter how enticing a deal can be, the phrase “steal of a deal” can also mean your purchase is stealing freedom from the individual who is making it.  While shopping for my husband, I did his clothing purchases at H&M. As a company with a B+ rating, I can feel as jolly as Santa when giving him his gifts!

At this time of year in 2012, I was arriving home from a stint with Not For Sale as part of their Fellowship program. It was an amazing experience, which has transformed my life. While with Not For Sale, I helped create this lovely Free2Work Shopping Guide. While this version is a year old, it still gives some helpful points to keep you in check while shopping this Holiday season!!!

As faith-based Christmas Cards, inspirational songs, and your Church may be reminding you, keep in mind the “Reason for the Season.” Allow that awe-inspiring, hope-filled joy to infiltrate every part of your festivities this holiday season. For God SO loved the world he gave his only Son… As we are called to Love others with the same Love Christ has for us, let us not forget that people create the things we often purchase during this time of year. Loving those individuals means taking time to do our research, allowing that research to turn us into a conscious consumer, and use our purchasing power to support companies that show Love to those they employ.

Wishing you the merriest of Christmases! Stay warm, feel jolly, and spend time with those you love!

**For more information on modern day slavery, and for more ways to challenge yourself to an ethical life, check out Challenge: Ethical Easter and Challenge: Ethical Halloween