the question of enough

July 6, 2008

Today in church I got into a conversation with a church member about the downfalls of sweatshops. She questioned what was so bad about child labor in sweatshops, so I shared this story with her that I recently read in Jesus for President (here is a great article with the same story). Shane Claiborne writes,

Several years ago, I attended a protest against sweatshops where the organizers had not invited the typical rally speakers — lawyers, activists, advocates. Instead, they brought kids from the sweatshops. A child from Indonesia pointed to his face. “I got this scar when my master lashed me for not working hard enough. When it bled, he did not want me to stop working or to ruin the cloth, so he took a lighter and burned it shut. I got this scar making stuff for you.”

As I shared this story with my friend, she questioned, “Well what can we DO about it?!”

That’s the million-dollar question. It’s a heavy prospect to realize that the clothes we wear cause people real pain and that the money we spend on them finances unethical treatment of fellow human beings. The Center for a New American Dream has some good resources about practical ways we can alter the way we live, encouraging us to “consume responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life, and promote social justice.”

Here are some of my suggestions for doing what we can in our daily lives to aid the problem:

1. Pay the extra money for fair trade products.

2. The way to afford fair trade products? BUY LESS!

3. Make your own clothes (and anything else that can be made out of fabric). Be resourceful about it: use old clothes/sheets/curtains/fabric to create something new and useful.

4. Visit thrift stores and garage sales…not to buy tons of cheap crap that you won’t use, but to enjoy searching for things that you NEED and CAN use.

5. TRADE items with friends. It’s fun.

6. SHARE what you have with your roommates, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, church members, etc.

I love clothes. But over a year ago I realized that I always bought new clothes before they ever got worn out. So I made a commitment to not buy any new clothes for a year. It was rough at first.

I don’t know when it happened, but as the year went on, my coveting of new clothes seemed to disappear. As I sewed holes in jeans, skirts, and shirts, I began to learn what contentment felt like. I’ve passed the year of my commitment to not buying new clothes, but I have no desire to buy any anytime soon.

As a college graduation gift, my aunt generously gave me a gift certificate to Revive, a wonderful fair trade clothing store located in Cleveland Hts. On my first trip there, I was so overwhelmed with the ability to buy whatever I wanted that I ended up being unable to choose anything. I’m slightly closer to understanding what it means to have ENOUGH. Only slightly though. I have a lot of work ahead of me.


One Response to “the question of enough”

  1. Rachel said

    Glad to see you are advocating fair trade clothing. I work for a company called Fair Indigo and we also sell women’s, men’s, and baby apparel that are fair trade (and some organic). You can check us out at! We would be happy answer any of your questions.

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