Josh and Jenny, two of my closest friends from college, came up to visit this weekend. We got talking about everything; we used to sit around on our porches smoking pipes and talking for hours on a regular basis. My blog came up in conversation. So did Fair Trade. Here's some progression of my thoughts in just the past few days:
Fair Trade is a great tool for preserving and promoting culture and human dignity. How is this?
In a lot of developing nations, jobs are drying up as fast as the infrastructure they are a part of. Often times, people who can't find work either starve, emigrate to a place where they can find menial labor, or find themselves practicing prostitution or other unfortunate occupations.
In many instances, Fair Trade cooperatives offer people faced with few options a means to sustainable income, and a way to stay in their home community practicing a trade with dignity. Creativity is fostered, joy is had, and redemption can come in places that many of us think are hopeless and beyond change. Having been to Haiti, I'm reminded daily of the hope in that nation by a metal cross, filled with images of the living Earth, that sits behind my bad. This is a product of a cooperative in Haiti, made from recycled oil drums, of all material! And whoever said nothing good could ever come out of Haiti?
Many times, the trades honor and respect cultural traditions -- perhaps they even rewaken some that have been lost over time as Western economic needs have become more practical (how many fancy, handmade bowls can you buy at Wal Mart?) and less about the bigger picture that our purchases and investments are part of.
After all, people can go into whatever major retailer they prefer and buy something, but a sales associate probably can't tell you about who made it, what their life was like before and after the person who gets the product to the retailer showed up on the scene, and how good their life is now. Hear me: I am not saying all major retailers or wholly bad; only that they do not typically market their products in a holistic fashion.
10,000 Villages offers costumers a neat opportunity to learn about the person (or at least group of persons) who made the product. why one's purchase improves lives; and makes all of the information available to every customer who walks in the store. This is something more personal (and therefore inherently relational) than most other stores.
Shopping at 10,000 Villages might be a catalyst for who-knows-what. It might encourage someone to research what social problems plague women of Peru, and get involved in a women's rights movement. It might encourage a group of friends to take a trip to Kenya and find out how to connect the Gospel with a more Christ-focused way of 'doing economics'. It might be the first step in learning about what Fair Trade is, and lead someone to think more critically about their economic behavior.