Happy holidays! For a solid month we celebrate a succession of holidays, including Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day. Holidays remind us of our ideals, values, and identity. They offer us an opportunity to re-assess the direction of our lives, they invite us to pay attention to the things that really matter, and they remind us that life is a precious reality to be celebrated and appreciated.
Naturally, the holiday season has also become deeply connected to one of our society’s most sacred acts – consumption. In fact, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are home-grown holy days built around this act. The sacred quality of consumption has turned it into an unquestionable reality, however, it is not a given that our approach to consuming is consistent with our values and ideals.
Perhaps this holiday season could serve as an opportunity to cultivate a more mindful attitude toward consumption. Commerce is fundamentally about relationships. It involves a relationship with the workers in stores and those who run the companies. It also involves relationships that are less visible. It is especially easy to overlook the impact of our purchases on the poor and on the environment. Unknowingly, we can support systems that exploit and objectify the most vulnerable members of our world community. Unintentionally, we can endorse a system that funds and even promotes devastating violence in the poorest parts of our world. Accidentally, we can invest in realities that pollute and degrade the environment, threatening the capacity of current and future generations to benefit, as we have, from the earth.
Buying fair trade products, when possible, is a way to vote for a more just world with our wallets. A fair trade gift sends a message that you didn’t just think about your loved one, but also your brothers and sisters around the world. Baking cookies with fair trade sugar and chocolate chips and serving them with fair trade coffee or tea is a way of celebrating a special time of the year with those we love and a way of celebrating the values that we treasure – dignity, human rights, opportunity, respect for the environment, peace on earth, and good will toward humanity.
David is a theology teacher at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. He is also a member of the Ohio Fair Trade Network, advises the Fair Trade Committee of the Walsh Jesuit High School Justice League and coaches soccer at “the WJ”. Walsh is in the process of becoming a “fair trade high school” through fairtradecampaigns.org, a US program designed to promote fair trade. WJ students want to dig deeper with their fair trade campaign and address systemic oppression at the institutional level. Go Walsh!