Christmas Shopping

When I first read this article in my Tumblr feed I was, of course, immediately horrified. I couldn’t stop wondering what kind of person it took to literally step over a dying man and do nothing. It was easy to sit on my computer in judgment of all those apathetic shoppers who passed this gentleman by rather than stop to help him. But the more I thought about this story and the many other disturbing stories to come out of this year’s Black Friday shopping institution, the more I realized that people (myself included) participate in this kind of behavior in small ways all the time. Everything we purchase passes through hundreds of hands before finding its way into our shopping cart. Do we think about all those people – the conditions in which they labored, whether they were paid a living wage, the safety or sustainability of the production or materials they worked with – before we head to the checkout? The truth is every time I eat an M&M I am figuratively stepping over the children in Africa who are forced into slave labor for the cocoa industry. Every time I tie the laces of my tennis shoes I symbolically and indifferently pass by the young men and women in China working 18 hours a day in dangerous factories to make them for me. Am I really much better than those Black Friday shoppers at Target?

I believe we were created to live in community with one another, both in close proximity and far. And what I buy can and does make a difference to people all around the world. I want that difference to be positive rather than negative. So, I'd like to think that I wouldn't ignore the dying man in Target, but I also shouldn't ignore the teenager sewing t-shirts in Bangladesh, the old farmer bent over in the South American sun picking coffee beans for pennies a day, or even the employee at the register at the big box store making minimum wage with no benefits.

This Christmas I’m struggling to make a list of gifts that I want that won’t damage the earth or its people. I’m not sure it’s possible, but I’m going to try my best. I'll also try to keep you posted, though my blogging track record isn't exactly exemplary lately.

Photo: macten