I remember one year on our dad’s-birthday-eve, I stumbled upon my sister in the garage hammering nails into a long board on which she had painted tye-dye colors and written some generic message like “Dad, you’re a pal!” with big sloppy letters. It was a coat rack, she said.

I must have been about 7 years old or so, and at the time it was a favorite pastime of mine to hammer nails into boards. Unable to let my sister one-up me at my own specialty, I spent quite some time thinking how I could turn one of my nail-and-hammer projects into a birthday gift for my dad. Finally, I had it! My grand idea was to hammer different size nails into a block, tie on an extra nail as a mallet, and there you had the perfect musical instrument birthday gift.

When my dad opened his gift after kindly admiring Krisha’s coat rack, he sort of smirked in my directions and said knowingly, “Kayla, you just wanted to hammer nails into a board, didn’t you?” Having been raised to be proud of my creative efforts, I was pretty hurt by my dad’s failure to appreciate his new musical instrument. But I also remember acknowledging in my upset 7-year-old mind that he was right. I did just want to hammer nails into a board.

Last night I sat in my room hammering nails into a board, and I remembered my unappreciated birthday gift that was now turning into something more innovative than even I had expected. After years of disentangling spools of thread regardless of how many times I try to gently organize them in a box or nicely stack them in a window sill, I stumbled upon the realization that they would hang wonderfully from nails hammered in a board.

After a trip to the wonderful Construction Junction to acquire an old piece of crown molding, a cut and paint job, and an evening spent hammering nails into a board, I have discovered the way to keep my spools untangled and looking nice:

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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.