"It always seems impossible until it is done." -Nelson Mandela
At the risk of sounding redundant, a New Year has come. I don't know what your Facebook feed looks like right now, but mine is riddled with cheesy quotes about new beginnings. And, while I mock them, I must admit that there's something inspiring and encouraging about thinking that a New Year can mean a new and better you; a new attitude, a new adventure, a new lifestyle. But of course it's hard not to be cynical, knowing just how many times people have committed to changing their lives for the better in January, and then abandoned whatever goals they set by February. I've never been big on the resolution thing for this reason, but I have made the habit of giving myself challenges for the coming year. These challenges generally have something to do with things I need to overcome or learn in order to have the freedom to live my life more fully. Last year it was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, a huge lesson in trusting God, the year before it was running a half marathon to learn discipline, graduating, partially just to get out of the rut of being a student, and starting my career, to step out of my comfort zone (2013 was a big year for me.) As it's only three days into the year, I haven't spent much time yet thinking about what areas of my life could use a challenge, but I definitely feel the overwhelming desire to be able to say this time next year that I'm living life more fully than I am today. And, as evidenced my previous blog posts, one of the things weighing heavily on my heart is living a life of justice.
I know I've talked a lot about how I want to live out justice in every area of my life, so saying it again is unnecessary, and a little bit unhelpful. I do want to live justice, and I'd love to challenge others to do likewise, but as a challenge, that one's pretty vague. One valuable thing I learned in University was how to set a good goal. A good goal is something called a SMART goal. It's an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. By this standard, "living a more just lifestyle" makes for a ridiculously poor goal. I've already got the "t" (by the end of the year), so let's start with some specific (and realistic) challenges for the year.
This year, I want to give more away. Time, money, energy. I've become somewhat selfish with these things in the last few years. As life has gotten busier and money has been scarce, I've been less willing to go out of my way to bring joy to the people in my life. This year, that is going to change. I'm going to stop thinking about how inconvenient it is to drive half an hour to visit a friend when she's upset about something, and I'm going to show up, fair trade chocolate bar in hand.
That brings me to a second challenge. This year, there will be items that I will only purchase if they're Fair Trade: Chocolate, coffee, tea and sugar. All four of these goods are infamous for their use of child and slave labour in production. In fact, 72% of the cocoa beans used in our chocolate comes from Ghana and the Ivory Coast - both places that have high incidences of cross-border child trafficking, and most of these trafficked children end up as free labour, picking cocoa beans. I've talked a lot in past blogs about ethical consumerism and voting on what is important through your spending habits. These are four practical areas in which I can vote for justice, dignity and freedom for those who produce my consumer goods.
On a similar note, this year I want to support companies who are empowering others. My last blog post featured multiple companies whose products are made by men and women around the world who are making a better life for themselves. This year I am going to challenge myself to purchase the majority (for the sake of measurability we'll say 70%) of my consumer goods from these companies.
Lastly, I'm going to educate myself more on the injustices of this world and what little-old-me can do about them all the way over here in my comfortable Maple Ridge basement suite. It's easy to think we're unable to change things because we're so far removed from some of the problems of injustice facing our world, but the truth is, there's lots we can do. It just takes some thinking outside the box. So I am going to read books written by Godly people about what justice is and how we can be a part of it, and I'm going to find at least one friend I can bounce ideas off of (probably someone smarter than me who can help me discover ways that empower others and do more good than harm.) And I'll let you know what we come up with along the way.
My hope is that by January 2016 I can look back on this year and say that in 2015 I lived more for others than I did for myself because, in the end, justice is pretty much about valuing others and spending yourself and their behalf. If everyone did that, there'd be no injustice in this world.