The other day I was exactly where I usually am, behind the wheel of my minivan, driving my kids wherever they needed to be. Sometimes we jam out to music, and the Hamilton soundtrack is our current favorite.
“I’m lookin’ for a mind at work, work
I’m lookin’ for a mind at work, work
I’m lookin’ for a mind at work, work
Whoa-oa! Whoa-oa! Whoa-oa! Whoa-oa!
And sometimes in my smelly minivan, on those beautiful occasions when everyone is getting along relatively well and the decibel level is manageable, I try to talk with them about important things.
So the other day I opened up a conversation with them about the privilege of work. We talked about the opportunity to work a good job and how it’s a gift. I shared how much I love my job, well, jobs, as author, speaker, mother, and advocate for Children’s HopeChest. They listened and talked about what they might want to be. Video game designer. Dog groomer. Extremely famous singer actress celebrity.
We talked about how right now their job is school, and the work that they do there will lead them to their future careers. I encouraged them to work hard, to achieve their dreams.
And then we moved to the people in this world who don’t have the opportunity to work, or receive dignity and fair wages, because of oppression and injustice. Men and women who want to provide for their families but can’t because of broken systems.
Last year with a small group of my neighbors, we learned more about the roots, problems, and hope for people living in poverty through the PovertyCure DVDs. While sipping coffee in front of my TV in the suburban U.S., we peeked into another world.
“This is the first time I’ve heard anyone talk about poverty like this.”
My neighbor spoke up as we processed the first PovertyCure session. After years of working with Children’s HopeChest, I was passionate about poverty alleviation and community transformation, but now I was sitting in a room with my friends talking about it.
As my group worked through the entire 6-DVD set, we kept coming back to what can we do. We were learning so much about economics and injustice and lack of access to the global market, but we were not the heads of a government. We didn’t run our own global organization. We couldn’t create jobs. How could a group of friends support entrepreneurs in the developing world?
As we talked through what we were learning, we kept coming back to our buying power. We make purchases every day. We couldn’t approve small business loans or meet with government officials, but we are part of the global marketplace. We buy. As Americans, we buy a lot. So how could we adjust our buying to benefit entrepreneurs around the world?
A few years ago I started an endeavor to buy all my Christmas gifts from companies making a difference in the world. I called it the “Slave-Free Christmas Challenge,” because after I found out about people living in slavery making the goods we purchase I couldn’t bear celebrating Jesus’ birth with items made that way.
I had a blast, hunting for gifts and necessities that would support artisans trying to keep their kids in school and feed their families. I found ornaments from Ornaments4Orphans and jewelry from Trades of Hope and soap from B.A.R.E. soaps and so many other wonderful companies empowering local business owners around the world.
I’m just one regular person, but what if a bunch of regular persons used their buying power to give entrepreneurs around the world the gift of work for Christmas? Mitscoots socks packaged by the homeless here in America and Sole Rebels shoes made from upcycled materials in Ethiopia and the most gorgeous array of purses from Purse and Clutch. Every item with a soul and a story behind it. Work matters.
I’ve continued these conversations about work with my kids and friends. When I purchase or give something, I try to ask myself, “Am I creating a job or taking one away?”
I want to look for ways to support and encourage men and women around the world to find meaningful work that supports their families and provides stability and hope for their lives. I want everyone, not just my kids, to get to achieve their dreams.
Work is a gift, one I never want to take for granted…although my kids might disagree as they do their math homework. “Whoa-oa Whoa-oa WORK!”
Melanie Dale is a minivan mama and total weirdo who stinks at small talk. Her laugh is a combination honk-snort, and it’s so bad that people have moved away from her in the movie theater. She adores sci-fi and superheroes and is terrified of Pinterest. Author of Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends and It’s Not Fair: Learning to Love the Life You Didn’t Choose, she’s also a contributor for Coffee+Crumbs and an advocate for Children’s HopeChest. Her writing has been featured on Parenting.com, Scary Mommy, Working Mother Magazine, Deadspin’s Adequate Man, Ann Voskamp’s A Holy Experience, and Today’s Christian Woman, and she’s a panelist for MomsEveryday TV. Living in the Atlanta area, she enjoys recording her podcast, Lighten Up with Melanie Dale, and blogging at Unexpected.org.