Helping Others In A Selfish Season
By Shelton Oakley Hersey and Stephanie Struck
ith Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, we have an unimaginable number of options when it comes to our purchases. But what we buy has the potential to promote a better quality of life for someone else or has the potential to perpetuate systems of slavery, exploitation, child labor and unfair wages. Our daily choices impact people around the globe. Together, our collective buying power can actually decrease the demand of goods produced by companies exploiting workers and increase pressure on companies to uphold human dignity and care in their business practices.
Responsible consumption is a form of advocacy, and a way to act justly.
Fuller challenges us to grapple with the realities of an increasingly globalized world and to wrestle with how to best serve others who are vulnerable to injustice and oppression. But we wonder, do our classroom discussions, reading assignments and conversations with friends about biblical values, community development and advocacy for social justice influence our decision-making? For us, not as often as they should.
We are all connected. Therefore, our individual decisions have global impact. In our own lives and travels, the two of us have each seen the work of a variety of development organizations and have met some of the people who benefit from microenterprise opportunities, fair labor practices, and empowerment projects. We believe that these people matter. Sure, it’s significantly cheaper and easier to shop at a one-stop shop or buy familiar brands, but we recognize that in making that choice we often are not placing value on the people behind the products. Admittedly, we make consumer decisions that promote brokenness and injustice daily, so we write from a place of personal discomfort and challenging reflection. We wrestle with questions such as: How do we, as grad students on tight budgets and student loans, practice consuming in a way that reflects Christ-centered values? How can we love people by the way we consume and share? What does it really mean in our shopping and daily habits to do justice and stop oppression?
Maybe your family Christmas has eliminated gift-giving altogether, or maybe your family and friends would be bummed to get a simple card announcing: “A cow has been given to a family in Kenya in your name.” Even as we deal with issues of limited finances and family expectations, there also remains a deep conviction to “put your money where your mouth is.” This is not easy, but together we can engage in dialogue and perhaps help each other make consumer and other lifestyle decisions that reflect the ways that God is challenging us to better love people in the world.
One effort to help Fuller and the greater community practice these ideas is the Alternative Christmas Market in Barker Commons on Friday, November 18 from 3-6 pm. This is the third year the event has taken place in Pasadena, and the second year on Fuller’s campus. There will be numerous vendors – representing local and international ministries – who sell jewelry, clothing, bags, journals, scarves, cards and more. Join us in doing some early holiday shopping or come just to learn more about some great ministries serving the vulnerable. This holiday season – and every day – our purchasing power can improve the quality of life for others around the world.