Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Social Justice and Preschoolers

"He has shown you, o man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8

Something that you seem to hear alot about while living in the UK is the concept of fair trade and social justice. I think this is a great thing. Just recently on the BBC News, there was a group of school children that were investigating the chocolate trade in Africa and how chocolate companies use child slave labor. The children were then allowed to question a leader in the chocolate industry in Britain about the policies. She answered their questions with honesty and respect. Fair trade is a big thing here as well. And if the option is available for me here, I usually purchase the fair trade choice instead of the alternative.

Our church here is involved in social justice issues as well. And I guess because of these two things and the fact that I'm reading through the Old Testament (Proverbs right now...today I remember lots of verses about honest scales and justice and righteousness), I'm thinking a lot about how the choices that we make as a family affect those in other countries and situations. And I'm considering the fact that if I do indeed call myself a follower of Jesus, how exactly does that bear itself out when it comes to the way that I use financial resources?

Tonight we had a conversation at the dinner table about these matters. Now, you might think this funny, but my little ones understood social justice on some level when we were finished with this discussion. But what is even more important to me is that I saw in their little hearts a tenderness toward people in difficult circumstances. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Hey guys, I've been thinking about something lately. You know, there are lots of little children all over the world that don't have food or clothes or homes or parents to take care of them."

Children: "Yeah."

Me: "Well, I've been reading in the Bible lately about how God is a 'just' God. Do you know what that means?"

Children: "No, mommy. What does that mean?"

Me: "Well, it sort of means 'fairness'. God wants people that have things to share with people that don't. In fact, that's why God blesses people with things --so that they can share with others. God wants governments to be just and fair. He wants rich people and poor people to be treated equally, which often isn't the case."

Children: "Oooohhh." (This really appealed to them as they LOVE things to be fair.)

Me: "And guys, do you know what I was thinking? I was thinking about all of the stuff that we have. We really have way too much stuff. So many toys that we don't play with them. And I've been thinking about the Build-A-Bears. I love the Build-A-Bears and they are fun. It's fun to buy them new clothes and things, but guys, do you think it's okay for our pretend teddy bears to have lots of clothes when real children all over the world don't have any clothes at all, much less toys like bears to dress up?"

Children (With great disdain): "No, mommy! That's sad that kids don't have clothes."

Me: "Yes, I agree. So, guys, we're not going to be buying anymore teddy bear clothes unless it's a really, really special occaision, okay? But what we're going to do is buy clothes for real children instead. Children that really need clothes, unlike our teddy bears, who really don't need clothes. Okay guys?"

Children: "Yes!"

They were so excited. Folks, they got it. These little people were so empathetic towards their fellow little people across the globe. What happens to us as we get older? Why do we forget this?

You see folks, I'm not here pretending that choosing not to buy more teddy bear clothes is an answer to the problem, and that is part of what I think we get wrapped up in. And I most certainly am not here to pat our family on the back. If anything, we should be ashamed that we haven't done more and sooner. I know that the problem is HUGE, so much bigger than any one individual or group could solve. But what I do think is that in the realization of our smallness, we get paralyzed. I know that I do. And I think that one little person doing one little thing can't make a difference. But that is a lie. One little person can make a difference for one other person, even if just one time. And, I dare say, for a lifetime if truly committed.

I've been asking myself lately, "Do I really need more stuff?!" See, my non-Jesus-y self likes my stuff. But, as I look at my latest purchases lately, I don't get joy out of them like I used to. It seems that lately, I can't enjoy a new ring or purse or candle when I know that things like this are going on. Every day. Knowing Jesus compels me to want to be a part of the solution. And I'm definitely going to be thinking and writing more about this. How about you?


Stacy said...

What a great conversation with your kids! :)
And I look forward to you writing more about this. I'm ashamed to say I don't know a whole lot about this and I was really glad for your definition and explaining it in kids terms!

beth said...

I consider it no coincidence that you just posted about something I've been thinking about a lot lately. In fact, I just finished reading Lisa Sampson's book Quaker Summer and it got me thinking even more! If only I could actually figure out how to apply this to my life. Less stuff isn't enough in itself, I must use my leftover resources for good...I will certainly continue to think more about this.

Cindy said...

So I suppose the bag of Build-a-Bear clothes I've been saving for your kids should go to someone else??

Can't wait to hear what you guys choose to do with some of your extra resources. I know you'll bless tons of people.

You've been awarded on my blog. ;)

Rebeca said...

Good stuff! It's nice to find you again- I'm glad you came by! Sounds like you're getting to do a lot of amazing things. I love the armchair reading list- travel books are my favorite, not like I need any encouragement in the wanderlust department.

Anonymous said...

That's awesome, Joni. Really awesome. Can't wait to hear how this will change the lives of many others, as well as your own. Thanks for posting!

Andrea said...

Great post.
And such a sweet picture of your littles up top.
Thanks for stopping by today. It is so nice to "meet" you!