By Haley Sackrison
When my husband Zac and I started choosing organizations we wanted to support and be involved with, we had a lot of criteria those organizations had to meet. If we were going to give them our money, we wanted to know who we were helping and how, that they were financially responsible, and what they stood for. But a few years ago, I came to the realization that we weren’t using the same criteria for other things that we spent our money on. When I was shopping for something with money that hadn’t been set aside for giving, I happily handed over cash for things simply based on the style, color, and what I considered a reasonable price.
As I started wrestling with the discrepancy between our giving and our spending, I also started hearing news stories about companies making products we were buying. Stories about how workers were treated, about their dangerous work conditions and how they were not paid enough to even live on. That bothered me.
This caused me to wonder how we could care so much about how our donations were used, but so little about the companies we invested in on an almost daily basis.
Around this same time, I started to hear about ministries teaching artisan skills to the world's poorest people. Their products supported sustainability, and helped their employees rise out of poverty by paying them fairly—a wage that they could support their family (this is fair trade). I discovered I could buy the same things I had purchased from large retail stores from women whose name and story were attached to the product! This changed the way I viewed shopping.
It wasn’t just about getting something I wanted or needed, even these—earrings, soaps, candles, scarves, t-shirts, chocolates and coffee beans—could be investments in something and someone.
I used to think there was only one kind of poverty: material poverty; but the truth is the materially poor often have a rich relationship with Christ and with their communities. It is those of us with relative wealth who find ourselves living as spiritual paupers. In fact, the more I hear their stories, the more I see that I have much to learn from the men and women employed by these ministries.
Pauline, in Kenya, wants the same things for her son as I want for mine. We want them to be safe, healthy, go to school, to be kind and generous.
Proverbs 31 is a chapter about “A woman who fears the Lord.” When I looked at these verses and thought about the women working in the organizations, I saw a living picture of what this “woman who fears the Lord” looks like.
“She considers a field and buys it. Out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable; her lamp does not go out at night….
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy…
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
(from Proverbs 31 ESV)
I love this verse that says “She considers a field—- and buys it.” It seems the woman who fears the Lord doesn’t make impulse purchases and doesn't do retail therapy.
She thinks about what she’s buying.
Each purchase is an investment and she knows what it means, and what it’s worth.
It’s becoming more important to me to invest in the people who made something than to get something cheap. Zac and I have changed the way we look at giving. While we continue to donate money, we also try to purchase things that support the small business arm of these ministries by giving women and men the dignity of a job, because charity and dignity must go arm in arm. Every time we hand money over for something we have the opportunity to leverage it for good.
Our giving matters, and we need to continue to give generously, but this Christmas I’m convinced that our buying matters too.
To find organizations that encourage sustainability and support dignity, check out these websites:
Haley is married to Zac and mom to two boys. She loves connecting with ministries around the world and traveling the National Parks with her Junior Rangers.