At Christmas I find joy in giving. This year I also found joy in getting.
When my missionary parents traveled to Mongolia as a part of their ministry, they would bring back items made by Mongolian women at Mary & Martha Mongolia as gifts to the people who supported their ministry.
I longed to have some sort of a global impact (after all, I am a missionary kid) even in the midst of my somewhat suburban American life. It occurred to me that I could help these women in Mongolia by selling their items here in the United States.
Unfortunately I didn't have the resources or the know-how to bring it to pass, and soon my parents returned to the United States to live, which made acquiring the items a little more difficult.
Fortunately now there are many companies and stores and ministries who help people in less fortunate circumstances make a fair wage for their work.
Like TOMS, for instance. I have to be honest, when I first heard about TOMS I was not at all interested in them. All I knew about the company was the shoes, and that the college-aged hipsters in my church were all like "TOMS. TOMS. OMG, TOMS!"
As an aside, if you know me you know that I don't like to be told what to do - or what to like. I want to buy something because I like it, not because it's trendy. This, in itself, is not a bad thing although I may have always been completely out of style. But I was out of style on purpose!
This attitude is caused by, and has caused, some things for which I am currently in counseling. Obviously.
That said, I avoided TOMS because they seemed trendy. Plus, I thought they were a little bit plain. What's the big deal?, I wondered. Then a friend of mine let me borrow some of her sandals for an evening out:
Now that I'd worn them, I wanted a pair of my own. I got on the website and read about their "One for One" philosophy - for every TOMS shoe you purchase, someone who needs shoes also gets a pair. Not only that, but for every pair of eye-wear purchased, someone gets their sight restored. And for every bag of coffee purchased, they help someone get clean water.
So when Santa asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I decided that if I was gonna get something, I wanted someone else to get something too.
I gave Santa several different items to choose from, including this bag from JOYN at TOMS Marketplace.
I choked up a little bit when I saw this tag that came with it:
"Each set of hands touching a product creates another job. Another livelihood."
To that I would add:
Each set of hands purchasing a product made by those dear hands creates a demand.
A demand for better jobs. Better livelihoods.
Sometimes I wonder, does it really make a difference? In the grand scheme of things... in the world economy... in my tight budget... is it worth it?
Then I remember it's not really about the economy or my budget. It's not even about bags or shoes. Those things are temporary. It's about people. Souls.
When we give, we get. I believe this to be true.
Now I know that when we get, we can also give.