A couple of weeks ago, my brother left a message on my cell phone:
“I just finished a book you have to read. You’ll love it. It’s called Blue Like Jazz.”
Since recommending reading is not one of his usual things, I went and bought the book. He’s right. It’s good. I’m reading it slowly because I want time to think about what Donald Miller, the author, has to say. After wrestling with this chocolate stuff, I came back to his retelling of one conversation in particular. He and his friend Tony were discussing the genocide in the Congo.
“It’s terrible,” I told him. “Two and a half million people dead. In one village they interviewed about fifty or so women. All of them had been raped, most of them numerous times.”
Tony shook his head. “That is amazing. It is so difficult to even process how things like that can happen.”
“I know. I can’t get my mind around it. I keep wondering how people could do things like that.”
“Do you think you could do something like that, Don?” Tony looked at me pretty seriously. I honestly couldn’t believe he was asking the question.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Are you capable of murder or rape or any of the stuff that is taking place over there?”
“So you are not capable of any of those things?” he asked again. He packed his pipe and looked at me to confirm my answer.
“No, I couldn’t,” I told him. “What are you getting at?”
“I just want to know what makes those guys over there any different from you and me. They are human. We are human. Why are we any better than them, you know?”
Reading through the comments on yesterday’s post, all full of great thoughts and feelings, I’ve been trying to come to terms with my own. No, I’m not going to give up chocolate. I don’t want to and it doesn’t solve anything. I am going to have to come up with an alternative for Valentine’s other than Reese’s Hearts, but there are alternatives. Thanks to Newman’s Own, I can find fair trade chocolate even in our biggest supermarket. It’s tucked away with the Kashi cereal, Terra chips, and flax seed oil. Meanwhile, the “candy aisle” stretches from the front end of the store to the back, and none of it fair trade.
We’ve got work to do. Miller’s words remind me the conversation has to be about “we” — about us. The coporate executives at Nestle and M&M/Mars who answer protests with form letters and dodge the real issues, the buyers and sellers of cocoa futures, those who abuse the children on the cocoa farms, the stock traders and stockholders who demand profits at all costs from their companies, the media who make one-day-emergencies out of chronic problems, the children who are forced into slavery: they are all part of us.
I’m no better than they are. I’m connected to them, if by nothing else than our common humanity. The only way things will really change is if we — WE — work on it.
Part of us are already out there. Check out the folks at Global Exchange. They have everything from information to educational resources to a fair trade on-line store. I’m challenged and encouraged by their approach because it offers me a way to respond beyond being angry, guilty, or resigned to this just being the way things are. They really believe we can change things.
I want to believe that, too.
When I named my blog, I was playing on the Buddha quote at the top of the sidebar: “There is no joy in eating alone.” Yesterday, one of the comments posted said, “The grocery store certainly is overwhelming when you start to consider the origins of what you eat, and justice. We really never do eat alone, do we?”
No, we don’t.
As I have said before, one of the things I love about coming to the Communion Table is I am coming to the table with all of those who have come before me and all who will come after me. I am not alone.
I’m learning that is true about any table, or any food for that matter. When I pick up a chocolate bar, or a cup of coffee, or a ham sandwich, I’m at the table with those who helped get the food to my table, those who have benefited from my purchases, and those who are harmed by my choices. I don’t ever eat alone.
The task, then, is for us to live and eat so none of us goes hungry.