Sunday, December 18, 2016

This one's for the parents

It has been an unbelievably long time since I've written as my life in the last year has been consumed with my husband's and my first baby, a little girl.  A rough pregnancy, followed by a rough delivery and then the craziness that is becoming a parent has kept me from sitting down and putting thoughts on a page, but today I feel the need to.

Every parent ever can probably relate when I say that my experience of becoming a mother has been one primarily characterized by sacrifice.  Don't get me wrong, I love my daughter and being her mother is a huge blessing, but in the last six months I have sacrificed sleep, my social life, my sanity, and along the way, many important parts of myself.  Before my daughter came along I was a social butterfly, rarely content to sit around at home by myself.  I enjoyed running, reading and writing, was passionate about social justice and enjoyed regurgitating research to help those around me live more just lives.  Now I hardly have the energy to leave the house and get to the grocery store.

After a particularly difficult day yesterday, I found myself wondering who I had become and when exactly I had lost a lot of the things that made me me.  I guess some of these things have limped along in the last couple months through a few conversations here or there, but most of them, if they still exist, have been warped and have become more about P than about me.  I can hardly remember the last time I did something I enjoyed, just for me.  I guess this is parenthood.  But to keep my sanity (and a little bit of my identity) I decided to take time today to do this, this one thing that brought me joy in my former life.  So here it is, my re-entry to the blogging world, and without neglecting a large portion of my audience or becoming a "mom" blog, I'm going to write about some of the really amazing kid companies I've come across since having my daughter.  This is one area where my passion for purchasing sustainable and ethically made products has warped and become largely about my daughter.  I rarely purchase things for myself anymore, but have been floored with how easy it is to shop ethically for a baby (and have maybe used it as an excuse to buy her too much stuff!)   If you don't have a child this may seem irrelevant to you, but if you know a kid under the age of 10, or have to attend a baby shower at some point, I'll tell you about some really great, mostly local, companies that you can support and feel good about.

One of the major Canadian news networks (I can't remember which one) posted a piece on Facebook recently about local children's clothing companies.  I was excited to see this, as some of my favourite companies were featured, but as I scrolled through the comment section (always a bad idea) I was pretty disappointed. So many readers commented that they would never spend that much money on children's clothing and that no working class family on a budget would buy these things. I felt compelled to comment and ended up having a lively debate with some other mothers about the benefits of buying local and how to make it work even if you were on a budget, and I came to realize that there were two underlying ideas which solicited such negative responses to the article.

 The first was the idea that children must have a lot of clothing, making it too expensive to shop locally. I think this idea actually permeates the whole fashion industry and becomes an issue when shopping for adults as well.  Yes, shopping locally seems completely unattainable if you're expecting buy your 2-year-old twelve shirts, but does he or she really need that many options?  I will be the first to confess that my daughter has far too many articles of clothing. There's no way I can dress her in all of them before she outgrows them. That being said, if your child is super messy and does need a ton of different options, there are ways to shop locally and ethically and still have enough.  My husband and I both work in the non-profit sector and therefore don't have a ton of cash to spend on little P's wardrobe.  I prioritize shopping locally and ethically though, and we manage to afford it by getting the majority of her wardrobe second hand, and filling in gaps with more expensive, locally made staples.  She has a few pairs of locally made, good quality organic leggings, a couple sweaters and a romper.  Everything else was either given to us or bought used.

The second idea is more problematic. This is the idea that clothing isn't worth that much money.  This sentiment has been banged into our skulls by the fast fashion machine that dominates the industry today.  I can't count how many ads in the mall brag about the low price of clothing.  But what are these ads really saying?  "We pay our workers next to nothing!"  One of the arguments one woman had about the aforementioned article was that these companies marked up their prices way too much.  Her example was a $50 sweater.  I will admit that my daughter owns one of these $50 sweaters, (she has this one) and I think it's worth every penny. I personally researched how much locally made, organic bamboo material costs, and let me tell you, it's not cheap.  In fact, it's $30-$50 per metre. Add thread, machine costs (repairs, etc.), shipping costs, marketing, and the wage of the people making these clothes and running the business, and you can see why $50 for this sweater is not out of the question.  All it means is that everyone involved in the supply chain is able to make a living.  I believe that gives our clothing a much higher value than the fast fashion industry would lead us to believe.

So with that in mind, next time you're shopping for a little one, check out these really awesome local companies I've come to love in the last 6 months: My absolute favourite clothing companies for my little one are all local.  Little and Lively has adorable, very simple pieces - mostly leggings, crew necks, dresses, rompers,and shorts, and are made locally in Abbotsford, BC.  Their clothing comes in super cute patterns, and are well made by the owner and creator of the company.  My personal favourite is the Raglan Pullover.  P has one that says "Mountains Daydreams Adventure" that couldn't sum up my hopes for her little life much better.

Vonbon  is another great Vancouver based company.  They also carry some great baby basics, including swaddle blankets and hats for newborns.  These pieces are all a little more pricey, but they're all also organic, and make really unique and thoughtful baby gifts. P has a fleece lined organic bamboo pullover that is the softest thing I've ever felt (the one I linked to earlier).  I have to repent of my envy every time I put it on her.  I hope to get her a few more pieces in the next little while as the fleece lined bamboo is very cozy and warm and are great layers for the cold weather we're experiencing right now!

My other go-to is Jax and Lennon Co.  I was actually introduced to this local Surrey-based company by a Facebook contest in which I won a $25 shop credit.  I used it to purchase P the cutest vintage floral bamboo hoodie (which she has just outgrown - I'm grieving) and have been hooked ever since. Bamboo is temperature regulating, so it makes great base layers for the cold weather, and will keep little ones cool once the weather gets warmer.  Jax and Lennon also has simple styles, but they carry a bit of everything - thermal shirts, undies, leggings, spin dresses, hoodies, tunics, t-shirt dresses, rompers, you name it. They even have women's styles!  I own their women's thermal and it is my go to for throwing on with my PJ pants to keep cozy.

The best thing about shopping for kids is that you can even find locally and ethically made accessories!  Minimoc makes adorable soft-soled leather shoes and mocs for little ones and is based in Abbotsford, BC.  These shoes run $45-$55, so they're not cheap, but they are designed to last!  These are a great investment if you're planning on having a few kids as they will easily live through 3 or 4 non-walkers.  P wears hers constantly and they still look brand new.  I'll let you know how they do with wear once she starts walking!  Wild Child Designs is a knitwear company in Maple Ridge that produces hand-knitted toques, headbands and scarves, and they are adorable!  In fact, she's one woman, hand making hundreds of beautiful pieces.  Unfortunately for us, she doesn't keep her shop open often and sells out pretty quickly, so if you're wanting one of these babies, you need to be on the top of your game!  Always and Foreverly is my favourite bow company, based out of Surrey.  This mama-run business produces the most beautiful handmade bows and headbands, and they're actually very inexpensive!  I'll be honest, I have a small obsession and P now owns more bows than she can wear.  Good thing she doesn't outgrow them very quickly! And last but not least, Beluga Baby is a Vancouver based wrap company.  They make bamboo baby wraps that are great for any new parent intending to wear their baby.  They are soft and secure, and help regulate babes temperature so he or she is not too hot or too cold in the wrap.  Most people will say these are best for newborns, but I wear P in mine all the time. She's snug and close and finds it very comforting, especially as she goes through the trauma of teething.

This ethical consumerism enthusiast has been just thrilled with the amount of products made locally for babies and children.  It may contribute to the fact that my daughter is now way more stylish than I am.  Now, it's time for the little one to wake up from her nap.  Me-time is over, and I leave you confident that you are armed with the information you need to buy the best for you kids, and wow people with your baby shower gifting skills!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Second Hand.

It's been a while since I've last written.  When it takes me a while to sit down and write something, I often feel the need to deconstruct why.

I've written in the past about the crippling feeling I get when the news is filled with injustice after injustice.  And it has been recently.  Terrorist attacks on multiple continents, shootings, you name it.  Injustices that I can do nothing about stop me dead in my tracks, make me feel little and useless, which keeps me from engaging with justice issues.

Today, though, a friend posted an article on my wall about a local woman who is using innovation and technology to combat the Fast Fashion industry.  My first reaction was to be reminded of the crippling defeat, to feel useless and like I'm not actually doing anything, and I should be doing more.  Maybe I should be doing what she's doing if I really want to make a difference.

But then I thought about my gifts and talents, and why I started this blog in the first place.  I'll be the first one to tell you that I am not entrepreneurial.  I would have no idea how to start a business, and I'd be too impatient to see if it actually took off.  But I can write decently enough, and know a lot of really compassionate people who care about the people in this world who are being oppressed, but don't know how to help them.  The point of this blog was to be a resource to those people - to give them the tools they need to change their everyday habits that contribute to injustice.

So today, let me tell you about this woman that my friend brought to my attention, who has made it easy here in Vancouver to recycle and consign clothes, as well as to buy second-hand.  She's started a business so we don't have to contribute to the Fast-Fashion cycle, which promotes waste and pollution, and devalues human life.

Take a look at this article on the Van City Buzz about My Modern Closet, and it's founder, Chloe Popove.  And next time you're looking for some new clothes, or trying to get rid of things from your closet, check out My Modern Closet for some great, previously loved pieces.

Buying second-hand is great for multiple reasons.  First of all, when we purchase new pieces on a regular basis (I myself am guilty of this), we are contributing to the need for the Fast Fashion industry, and its attitude - the attitude that we need new styles all the time, no matter what the human cost.  By demanding a constant cycle of new items on the shelf, we are also contributing to the pollution of out planet.  According to National Geographic, it takes about 700 gallons of water to make one t-shirt.  But on top of this, none of us wear our clothes for very long.  In fact, most people don't keep a piece of clothing for more than a year anymore, as the Van City Buzz points out in the above article.  So what happens to the clothing we don't wear anymore?  Either it ends up in a landfill (terrible for our environment) or it ends up being donated to second-hand stores like Value Village.  Of course we have the best intentions when we donate clothing, but most of what gets donated doesn't get sold, but gets sent to the developing world (Check out the movie "The True Cost" for more information).  This may sounds awesome to you, but what it means is that local market gets flooded with used clothing that can be purchased for cheap, putting local textile workers out of business.  Obviously, this isn't good for textile labourers and their families, nor is it good for the local economy.

My Modern Closet, and many others,  have come up with creative ways to solve this problem.  Check them out, support their business, and, in the process, do some good!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Love in the Face of Violence

I wrote this recently for JustUs, a joint project between the Wellspring Foundation and the Elevation Project.  Find the original post here:

This past week or so has been a dark one for humanity.  Everyone has heard about the devastation that rocked Paris this weekend, and everyone has mourned for France.  The response and compassion for those injured in the terrorist attacks have been overwhelming.  Social Media is flooded with the hashtag #prayforparis, with pictures of national monuments lit up with the colours of the French flag, with cries of outrage for those affected by the attacks.

Yet there were many other devastations around the world that didn’t make it to the World stage.  The bombing in Beirut, an attack in Kenya, the continued war in Syria, and the escalation of violence in Burundi.  No one changed their Facebook status to #prayforbeirut, or wrote about how they stood in solidarity with Burundians. The people who suffered loss and injuries in these tragedies weren’t deemed by the western world as important as those in France.

This week we held the International Day for Tolerance.  But as I sifted through Facebook posts and news articles, I couldn’t help but realize that, though the attacks in Paris led to a lot of compassion for the French, the responses that really stood out to me were of fear, hate, and intolerance.  

The reason only a few voices were heard crying about the plights in these other countries is because, the sad truth is, the vast majority of people aren’t tolerant.  We’re not tolerant of those who look different from us, have different cultural values, or practise different religions.

Generally speaking, we live in a tolerant world.  Most people have no problem with how you live your life, as long as it doesn’t affect theirs.  But I think many people’s response to the terrorism in Paris was fear, which led to intolerance, and in many cases, hate.  I was shocked to see people calling for our new Prime Minister to close our borders to Syrian refugees, because people were frightened it would let in terrorists.  I read status updates about how Canadian safety is more important than Syrians seeking refuge, as if geographical proximity to you makes someone’s life worth more than another’s.  

I saw these responses and I mourned.

When did the world forget that we’re all human?  We all have hearts pumping blood through our veins.  We all experience fear, anger, and joy.  We’re all the same.  At what point did we forget this, and learn to think of those who have the same skin, hair and eye colour as us as somehow more deserving of our love and compassion?

So today, I ask you, no, I beg you: In the face of fear, remain tolerant.  In fact, take it a step further and love.  Don’t just tolerate those who are different from you, but love them deeply.  In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus gives us a new commandment: “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

God has created each of us in His image.  His Son, Jesus Christ, shed his blood for each of us on the cross.  Who are we to decide that some are more important than others?  

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18.  Rather than react to what’s going on in the world with fear, which leads to hate, let’s choose to love as Jesus did.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Scary Truth About Halloween Candy

Halloween is fast approaching.   Each year you can expect certain things to accompany Halloween: Fireworks, children dressed up as this year's most popular Disney character, sugar highs, lots of noise, and chocolate and candy sales reaching ridiculous levels.  While it can be a fun event, with lots of excitement for small children, I want to talk a little about this ridiculous amount of candy.  When I say ridiculous, I do mean ridiculous.  In the United States alone, almost 600 million pounds of candy is purchased each year at this time.1  600 MILLION POUNDS!

Not only is that worrying for health reasons, but also for economic reasons. When you go to purchase your 200 or so candy bars for the imminent trick-or-treaters, what's the first question you ask?  I'd be willing to bet it's something along the lines of "Where can I buy the most Halloween candy for the least amount of money?"

As a thrifty shopper myself, I applaud you for making smart decisions with your finances.  The problem is, you are one of millions of people who ask this question each year.  And if millions of people are looking for cheap chocolate, thousands of companies are looking for ways to sell it at the cheapest price possible, and forcing producers to make it at the cheapest price possible.  And where do they cut expenses?  Labour.

The majority of the world's cocoa production takes place in West Africa.  And the scary truth is, here it is often children who are responsible for making our chocolate.  Kids, just like the ones who will dress up as Elsa or a Stormtrooper and come knocking on your door on Halloween night, are forced to work long hours doing dangerous work, for little or no pay, just so that we can save a few bucks on our chocolate.2

But we can change this system.  I know it sounds like a lofty goal, but it's true.  You and I together have the power to change how this works.  And it's pretty simple.  All we have to do is show the big candy corporations that it's not what we want.  And how do we do that?  By purchasing candy and chocolate that is produced in an ethical way, by fully grown adults who get paid a fair wage and work in a safe environment.

Now you may be thinking: "this sounds expensive."  And I'll be honest, yes, it will be more expensive than you're used to.  But the truth is, even if you don't think so, you are rich.  In fact, there's a good chance that if you're reading this you are richer than the majority of the people in the world.  In reality, you may end up paying about $10 more for fairly traded or ethically made candy than you would for Nestle or Hershey's.  $10.  That's two less coffees this week.  One less t-shirt for your seven year-old (which was also probably made by children if it's only $10 - but we'll save that for another time.) One movie ticket. One-quarter of your family's next meal out.  Doesn't sound like a lot now, does it?

Next you may be thinking that it sounds inconvenient.  Where do we find this candy?  Well, that's why I'm here!  Here's a list of ideas to replace the chocolate you usually purchase, so that you can hand out a less scary treat this Halloween:

1. Bug Bite Squares from Endangered Species.
 These pre-wrapped mini chocolate squares are made with ethically traded and sustainably grown cocoa, and as a plus for those kids out there with allergies and dietary restrictions, are certified gluten free, kosher, and free of GMOs.  They can be found on as well.

2. Equal Exchange also does Halloween kits, with mini chocolate bars all wrapped up and ready to go.  You can find them on their website at

3. Buy something other than chocolate. Lollipops, skittles, etc.  Chocolate is by far the worst offender when if comes to slave and child labour in the candy department, so find another sugary snack to hand out to the local trick-or-treaters.

4. Go for something other than candy!  These days kids have so many allergies, and get so much sugar already, why not give them something unique?  Hand out bouncy balls, colouring pages, pencils, stickers, etc.  I'm sure their parents will thank you!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Less is More.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I like clothes... quite a lot.  In fact, I would almost be willing to say an unhealthy amount.  When I have money to spend, my first reaction is to go buy new clothes.  I'm sure some of your are judging me for this, or maybe psycho analyzing me, or thinking very stereotypical thoughts about women right now.  In whichever case, I write this only to say that one of the reasons I began looking into clothing companies and their supply chains is because I give a lot of my money to clothing companies.  The problem, though, with analyzing mainstream, fast fashion clothing brands and their production lines is, while many of them have policies which sound fantastic, in practice, they are often doing much less than they say they are.  It's really difficult to be 100% sure that no one is being harmed in the making of your clothes unless you're buying fair trade.

I've been struggling with this idea for a few months now, and between it,  the conviction that maybe I'm storing up treasure on earth and valuing temporary things rather than storing up treasure in Heaven, and inspiration from another young woman I follow on Instagram who is living out justice by purchasing fair trade and thrifted items, has led me to believe it's time to make a change in my wardrobe, in my spending habits, and in my life.

When I considered the appeal of clothes shopping the other day, I realized that it is actually a very selfish act.  I can say that I'm helping people make an honest living by supporting companies that are treating their employees well (and I do believe I am), but really I go shopping to find things I want and I like so I can look a certain way.  Then three months later I clean out my closet and think, maybe having 16 dresses, 35 t-shirts, 7 jackets and 12 sweaters is a little excessive.  

This week, I am learning that less is more.  Having more clothing doesn't make me any happier or make me buy less.  So I emptied my closet, made a pile of timeless, neutral pieces that I can wear throughout the year and in many different circumstances, and a pile of everything else.  I am choosing to base my closet, and hopefully soon after every other area of my life, off of needs rather than wants.  I need to wear clothes,  I don't need a different outfit for every day of the month.  I need some clothes for warm days and some for cold days, I don't need 7 jackets, 12 sweaters and 6 pairs of shorts. From now on when I shop, I will ask myself, do I need this more than what I already have?  

Our culture promotes the mantra that more is more.  The more we have, the better we are.  And I've bought into it.  It's difficult not to, when the media, society and sometimes even your friends are telling you that you need more stuff.  But I can't help but wonder if we're just trying to placate a need that can't be met with material things, and as we accumulate more, we drown out and push aside the One that will actually meet that need.  Not to mention mass accumulation is terrible for the environment and just serves to make exploitation of the vulnerable easier and more necessary.   

In my own experience, having more tends to lead to apathy.  It's almost like we sacrifice the part of our soul that cries out for something greater than this world when we settle for having the things of this world.  So I'm getting rid of the excess.  I'm sacrificing the things of the world, because I want that part of my soul back.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Consume Good.

It’s been more than two years since a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 1,000 textile workers. It’s been more than two years since the world responded to this tragedy with outrage, unable to believe that companies could risk the lives of their workers as if they were worth nothing. It’s been more than two years, and very little has changed, either for the workers in Bangladesh, or for the consumers.

I became interested in how the people who made my consumer products were treated a few years ago, but it’s really been in the last year or so that I’ve let this information really affect my actions. I’ve tried hard to find information about where products were coming from, who made them and in what conditions, and I’ve done what I could to avoid supporting companies that don’t seem to care about the people who work long hours making their products.  

But I think it’s time to get positive.  While many companies have done very little to improve conditions for their workers, many others have developed business models that improve the lives of their employees.  Hundreds of companies have become disillusioned with fast fashion and have found new and innovative ways to make consumer products, while simultaneously empowering the workers.  So rather than talk about the injustices being done, today I’m going to celebrate 5 companies that are working hard for justice in their supply chains.

The activewear retailer, which can be found in most outdoor stores, developed a Fair Trade certified fashion line in May 2014.  As of spring 2015, this Fair Trade line of clothing offers activewear for both men and women, men’s underwear, women’s apparel, as well as baby clothing.  Most of this line is made in a Fair Trade Certified sewing facility, meaning the men and women making these pieces are working reasonable hours, in safe conditions, with reasonable pay.  Other pieces in the collection are made with Fair Trade Certified cotton.  Cotton is infamous for the use of children and slave labour in the picking process, so this is a huge step in the right direction.

This National Geographic associated line of apparel and accessories gives artisans from around the world, who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance, the opportunity to sell their goods on the international market. NOVICA has regional support teams that help these artisans with everything from product development, to business development to make their business successful.  They also offer microcredit loans, allowing many of these artisans to create a sustainable business, and in turn benefit their local economy. To date, NOVICA has supplied artisans with over $62 million.  

Stone + Cloth.  (
Being part of JustUs, a team made up of people who believe a quality education has the ability to empower children and give them opportunities they could otherwise only dream of, and having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro myself, this social enterprise really excited me.  Stone + cloth was created by Matthew Clough, who while connecting with his porter, Benson, on his trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro, learned that Benson doesn’t earn enough money to put his child through school. Matthew Clough decided to use his talent for design and create “the Benson Bag.” Proceeds from all stone + cloth bags help to provide scholarships for children in Tanzania through partnership with a non-profit organization called The Knock Foundation (

Most well-known for their fair trade “kantha quilts”, which are hand-stitched, and made from reclaimed sari cloth, dignify offers women living in poverty a second chance. All the women employed in creating their quilts were previously living on the street or engaged in the sex trade.  These women are now able to make a fair, sustainable income in a safe environment.

This clothing company is using technology to create a unique system, which connects the consumer directly to the people involved in making their goods.  Rather than have clothing mass produced in an environmentally unfriendly way, by machines that take jobs away from people, IOU’s products are individually hand-made.  When you order a piece of clothing through IOU’s website, you’re sent a tracking number, which gives you the ability to follow your article of clothing from the weaving stage, through the production stage, all the way to your doorstep.  As a consumer, you get to know the name and story of the craftsman and the designer behind your purchase, and since there are no other manufacturing costs involved, such as machine maintenance and factory rent, more revenue goes to the people who made your product.

While many companies have stubbornly refused to change the system which benefits them and harms their workers, others have innovatively found way to make our consumer goods benefit those who make them.  These companies have created a way to  provide a sustainable living wage for those who are daily threatened by poverty, and give them opportunities that are not readily available to most of today’s textile workers.  The companies featured here are just five of hundreds that are working to provide ethically made consumer goods, so that we can stop contributing to the systematic enslavement of textile workers, and feel good about the products we buy.  

Everything we buy was made by someone, working hard to provide for themselves and their families.  I believe that these people deserve to be treated fairly, and have a job that will enhance their living standards, not make them worse.  These five companies, and many others, share this belief, and are working to make it a reality.  They’re doing justice and creating good through their supply chains, empowering their workers rather than enslaving them.  Let’s join them, and choose to consume good.

*Most of the information in this blog has been found on the website of the individual brands, and on  Check out their website for more really awesome brands that are doing great things!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"The Risky, Revolutionary Path of JustUs Thinking" By Louise Reilly

A good friend of mine recently wrote a great piece on "other" thinking, and the beautiful reaction of the families of those killed in the Charleston shooting.  It was too good not to have it more widely circulated, so I am proud to feature my dear friend and colleague, Louise Reilly, as a guest blogger:

I have a confession to make – and I’m not proud of it.  Something troubling goes on in my subconscious when I hear (it seems on a daily basis) of the latest tragedy or atrocity that has taken place in our broken world.  My first reaction is, as for all of us, shock or sadness or disbelief or anger or confusion.  The events that take place in our world today are heart-breakingly mind-blowingly difficult to get our heads around, and my head can often do little more than breathe out a sigh of weary lament.

My second reaction – which seeps in often unnoticed, as a reflex reaction to any sign of threat or danger – is what troubles me. In an attempt to reassure myself that the news I have just heard is something that could never happen to me or those I love, I find myself subconsciously trying to work out the differences in our stories; the factors and circumstances that mean I need not worry.   The trouble with this is that instead of focusing on our common humanity – on the truth that there is no other, there is just us – I am focusing on difference, on turning people to “them”, simply for the sake of feeling more secure.  With every fibre of my being, I do not believe that we are in any way different. But for a fleeting moment, when a breaking news story feels a little too close to home, I often allow my mind to wander into this territory.

 Each member of the JustUs team, myself included, believes strongly that a “them and us” mentality is one of the biggest hindrances to each of us truly becoming justice bearers. Only when we truly understand and live into the truth that every single human being is made in the image of God, and has equal value, worth, and dignity, will we be able to humbly and effectively address the injustices in our world today.  This paradigm shift may not seem risky, and yet if we allow it to become part of who we are, there will be significant implications. Tragic news stories and events will break our hearts more deeply, and we won’t be able to so easily sweep away our fears, as we recognise that the people impacted are just like you and I – that we share this common humanity, and that each one of us is treasured by God.  But it also allows us, instead of defaulting to self-preservation mode, to catch a glimpse of God’s heart for the injustice or tragedy that has taken place, God’s heart for those who are impacted, and God’s call to respond with love, rather than fear.

 In the midst of this paradigm, I am increasingly convinced that if there has to be a dichotomy at all, or a moment in which the designations of “them” and “us” are to be rightly used, it has to relate to our response to injustice, and to the matter of love. There are those who choose hate, revenge, violence – and there are those who, in the face of hate, choose the painstaking, revolutionary, glorious way of love.  There is a dichotomy here, and a choice that presents itself to us all in different circumstances of life, both in small ways and in large and significant ways.

But what if even this dichotomy was framed in the context of the “just us” paradigm? What if we allowed our understanding of shared humanity, our shared position as God’s image-bearers, to impact how we respond when the choice between love and hate presents itself?

I think this is what we saw in action as relatives of nine shooting victims stepped up one by one in a Charleston courtroom last month. As I listened to these family members speak directly to the young man who had killed their loved ones only days before, choosing to forgive him, choosing love over hate because of the belief that responding with hate would accomplish nothing – I saw this reality in action. In that courtroom, there was a killer (“them”) and there were grieving victims (“us”); two groups of people separated by the horror of racially-motivated violence. And yet in the midst of the overwhelming grief, those family members stood before another broken human, and showed the watching world that compassion, forgiveness, love, towards someone who in that world’s eyes could not be more “other”, was possible.  I don’t know about you, but this filled me with so much hope. 

Whether the difficult circumstances we seek to address present themselves to us in the news or in our own lives, are we willing to step out of our comfort zone and embody this “just us” thinking? Will we choose love over hate and fear?  Compassion and mercy over self-preservation and security?  We are fragile, vulnerable, sojourners in a broken world.  But we are loved, held, and empowered by the One who brings light and love into the darkest of places.  Let’s follow Him where He leads us – together.