In December, the J girl and I started volunteering with a local ministry, The Manna Cafe, that sets up traveling food trucks serving meals to the community. Between Husband’s work schedule and the sheer impossibility of wrangling the boys in that setting, we manage to get there on Sat mornings once or twice a month.
I’ve held off on writing about it. Mostly because it is changing things in my heart that I am unable to articulate. There is a great groaning in my soul over the pain of the world and the ache and destruction of sin. My dear friend The Life Artist said, when I called her in tears, that that there is a tension between joy and sorrow that can never be resolved this side of Heaven, and this places me squarely in the midst of that tension. Additionally, it feels exploitative to use others’ circumstances and stories (without their express permission) to garner attention to myself.
But here I am telling you-and frankly, the only reason why, is to highlight what a fool I can be, and then to tell you why I chose The Root Collective as my first Fair Trade Friday (and also why I am choosing to become an affiliate here on the blog.)
(Editor’s note: Most companies I choose to review will NOT be affiliates, and I am paying out of pocket for ALL items purchased and given away. Go here to read my full policy on affiliates.)
You see, I started serving with the intent of building relationships, of offering my time in whatever way was most useful. I didn’t (and don’t) want to be a white savior and I am desperate to be respectful of the people we serve. All good and important.
However-I am so embarrassed to tell you-Before I started this journey, in all my 35 years of existence, I thought I was GIVING people dignity by helping them.
No, no, no, NO.
How terribly arrogant of me. We are all creatures of the Creator, knit and known before our very existence, equal in both our sin and His all encompassing love for us. How can I give dignity to someone whose very existence exudes dignity as an image bearer of the Almighty.
No, I have the most incredible opportunity to AFFIRM their dignity by stepping outside the bounds of charity and sharing the moments of our lives together, however brief they may be. And sharing my time, and some cups of coffee, and my daughter, with her smile, and her outsized heart, it is opening my to eyes to see Christ in all, to see praise in these image bearers, and to see and hear the joy and sorrow of their stories without judgement.
These beginning stages, they are uncomfortable, and awkward, as I see what a fool I’ve been. More than once, I have been forced to dig my size nine foot out of the back of my very loud mouth, and more than once I have walked away from a conversation mortified after the fact at my well meaning but cringeworthy attempts to “help.”
But oh, This will be the Holy undoing of me and my selfish heart.
SO, what could that POSSIBLY have to do with The Root Collective?
First: Who are they?
The Root Collective is a clothing and accessories company that partners with small-scale artisan businesses in marginalized communities to promote change through dignified jobs. Their partner artisans own their own businesses, and set their own pricing. They are often receiving business training through the nonprofits working in their communities and have come to understand how to set their pricing to ensure fair payment to their employees. (From The Root Collective).
Second: What are they about?
When I finally got around to checking out their affiliate program last month, well after my spiritual heart surgery was underway, i read this and knew I had found a fit for me.
“The Root Collective PARTNERS with artisans. They are not employed by us. They own their own businesses and are in control of the path of their own lives. They are capable, confident, and resourceful. They simply need someone to believe in them. That where all of us come in.
We are not HELPING. At least not in the traditional sense. Helping connotes that the other person needs us, and we are somehow a savior, that we are somehow more capable than them. The Root Collective wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for our talented artisans. They are helping us as much as we are them. It’s a partnership.
We partner to AFFIRM dignity, not give it. No one can give another person dignity.”
There is a lot more on their website – I would encourage you to check it out for more information.
Third: What do they sell?
Fourth: What did I buy?
THE SHOES, okay and a scarf to match. I’ve been holding out for these ballet flats. Let me tell you about the shoes.
“The fabric for each pair of shoes is handwoven in the traditional backstrap looms of Guatemala. These looms were in existence before the Spanish arrived in the 1500’s. The weaving co-op that creates the fabric was formed by war widows during the 36-year civil war that ravaged Guatemala. The main part of the shoes takes 2 hours to weave, and any embroidered detail on the shoe takes 100 hours per meter (about 3 feet) to weave.
The shoes are crafted by hand in the slum of La Limonada in Guatemala City by a business owner named Otto. Like so many others in Central American slums, Otto was a member of a gang. Unlike many others, he was able to escape that life. It can be dangerous to leave the gangs, and since gang members are branded by gang tattoos, if they are able to leave, finding a job is nearly impossible. Otto’s business plan is to train and hire former gang members so they are able to leave their former lives.” ~ From The Root Collective.
Fifth: Love it or hate it?
I LOVE my shoes and my scarf. I needed some ballet flats and were holding out for these. (And I feel like it is important to note here that I have a small scarf obsession.) The handwoven cotton fabric is thick and SO sturdy. I keep rubbing it while I am wearing the scarf. (Also important to note: I am a fabric snob, and slightly weird.) The sole of the shoe is thick rubber and seems more substantial than most other ballet flats I’ve owned. The shoes are fabric and will stretch a bit -they don’t have half sizes, so I went smaller rather than larger and while they are still snug, they are stretching to fit my foot quite nicely. (Only had them for two days so time will tell on that one!) I had an issue with ordering the shoes and they responded immediately with several options to resolve the issue AND they refunded my shipping costs. Big fan of the customer service. The biggest hurdle in purchasing their products is price. They aren’t cheap, BUT they frequently have flash sales announced on their social media sites and I did not pay full price for anything I purchased.
WOW, this was long. If you stuck around, thanks! To reward you, I am giving away a scarf! (From The Root Collective of course!) This one, to be exact, a handwoven celery striped infinity scarf. (And don’t I have the loveliest model?
There are are two ways to enter: Subscribe to the blog by email (in the upper left hand corner) – I post once or twice a week, love to tell stories, no spam, and you might get some pictures of my kids! (If you already subscribe, you are automatically entered.) You can also share this post to your social media accounts, (FB, twitter, or Instagram) and leave me a comment letting me know you did so. I will choose a winner at random on Monday evening from the comment section and my email subscribers.
Thank you, my people!