I have never held back tears for an hour and as I left the building, my legs were wobbly as I descended the stairs. This film physically affected me. While I have seen about 5 documentaries on human/sex trafficking, and although this one had a unique slant to it, the message was essentially the same. We can do something. We should do something. There is hope amidst this blight facing our world. Those most affected may not see the hope yet, but those of us paying attention as outsiders see the hope and know that we bring can end to this illegal practice, one that affects 30 million people a year. I don’t know why this film created so much emotion for me, but reflecting on it, it was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back. A film that focused on children. Maybe it was because of the story of a photographer who had traveled the world without realizing slavery was all around her. Probably all of the above. I have been to a lot of countries, mostly in the global south, but looking back, I feel like I was blind during that time. I was too busy having fun, trying to accomplish tasks at hand, and photographing the beauty that surrounded me. I wonder if I ever came into contact with slaves or if I ever contributed to the practice in any way. Looking back, it’s unlikely that I am spotless. All I can do to apologize for this is to plead ignorance and claim that the attention to slavery and trafficking has been relatively recent, and that much of my travel took place before we really knew. I am not sure if this is actually true, but I must hope and pray that I did not ignore something that was so obvious. But I saw the world with Western eyes and those eyes are often rose colored and perhaps too optimistic. Too optimistic that the world is better than it is. That everyone has the privileges that we do. But I know better than this.
I feel like I am a crossroads where I must decide whether this is compelling enough for me to sacrifice for or whether it’s something I will continue to educate myself about without really doing something tangible. Being a slactivist. Someone that draws attention but does not put in the skin needed to make a difference. I hope that this night is the beginning of something different, of going from a slactivist to a passionate advocate that can one day look back and be truly satisfied with what she accomplished. Every time I go to one of these events, I do wonder what I can really do. This time, I bought a brown box with a pretty pink bow on top, one filled with fair trade items and a promise of the downloads of the film Stand With Me. This documentary, along with other many excellent ones on related topics, including 58 and Nefarious, are trying to paint the picture of reality for millions of people around the world. But it’s hard for us to jump into the film and really get it. I think sometimes it takes breathing the dusty sweltering air, going down those bone-jarring roads and seeing the bloated bellies of malnourished children up close. It takes seeing and talking to the young girls who have been forced into a life they don’t want for us to let it sink it. Otherwise, they are just photos and even film that we pretend are not reality. We convince ourselves that the world is ok and that leaving well enough alone is the best course of action. We have our own lives, our own families, children, parents, etc. Even if these stories are true, how can we really engage, participate, make a difference? Miles and corruption are barriers, we tell ourselves. The world is coming to an end soon, anyway. The poor will always be with us. Sound familiar?
I have been an amateur for a long time. An amateur writer, activist and photographer. But something changed in me tonight. My experiences, though amateur, can be used for good and must be used for good. God gave me a wonderful education, incredible experiences and the opportunity to meet people all over the world for a reason. He ended a long-term relationship a few weeks ago for a reason. He kept me living in the US these last 10 years for a reason. It’s been difficult to know why things have turned out the way they have but I have to believe that our good God has a big plan for me. One that will take an amateur into someone who is changing the world, like the young girl, Vivienne, in the film I saw tonight.
This blog is not about me, nor is it about any one documentary. It’s much bigger. It’s about bringing an end to poverty and the end to human trafficking. It’s about justice and mercy. It’s about skin in the game. I am grateful for a few compadres who believe in this cause. But I want more who will stand with me, with others who are passionate and optimistic. I believe that if given the chance to learn, many more will jump in and do something. For some, it will mean educating your children to the realities in our world. For others, it will mean using your skills to contribute. For those of us who pray, it means praying for unity between those that are working in this arena, that efforts may unite so we can be better together. For many, it should mean contributing to organizations working to bring an end to poverty, not just putting a band aid on it. I will have access to this film in about 6 weeks, and I would love for others to see it. I also have others to watch, including 58, which is a Christian production about bringing and end to poverty. While not entertaining films, they are essential in being an informed citizen of this world. Let’s vow to do all that we can to give hope to the millions affected by human trafficking and the billion plus living on less than $2 a day. What an incredible gift to humanity this would be.