catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 12 :: 2004.06.04 — 2004.06.17


The inevitable question

The women, mostly gray-haired, some spunkier than others, had gathered comfortably in their weekly oblong circle in the church fireside room. I waited quietly on the outside while they attended to several items of business, including where they would have breakfast next week. Soon, they rearranged themselves for my presentation.

I started with a brief explanation of the reasons our store, World Fare, exists: to promote global economic justice by providing a fair wage to artisans in variously disadvantaged circumstances. Then, as VCR?s often do, this one refused to cooperate, but I managed to narrate the visuals somewhat accurately and create an understanding of fair trade that was linked to the human faces that flitted across the silent screen. Finally came the Q & A time, which is typically my favorite part because it allows me to know what?s on the mind of the listeners and get to the point on their confusions and concerns.

I explained that the artisans set their own prices, that the store keeps prices low by using volunteer labor to keep overhead low and that we are part of a larger network of stores and organizations who all understand fair trade to be part of a sustainable solution to global poverty. Eventually an embarrassed inquirer asked the question that always comes up: ?But how do you make a living??

While Rob usually answers with something clever like, ?Very carefully? or ?Not very well,? the practical answer to that questions is, ?Well, I work three jobs, two of which pay some of the bills, one of which pays nothing, and my husband receives a monthly check from the other organization we run for whatever that organization can afford to pay him.? Finances have been precarious at best in 20 months since we launched *cino. We?ve chosen to live at or below the poverty line for a while, though we anticipate that will change—we?re not lifelong economic martyrs, we hope.

My reaction to this hope is mixed. Sometimes, I feel that poverty should be required of me in proof of sincere Kingdom-seeking. Other times, I feel that people will contribute to work they feel is important, meaning that if the community of believers values our work with World Fare and *cino and God intends that work to continue, we?ll be able to pay the bills.

I?m still listening to various stories and wisdom in an attempt to sort out my approach to this issue and therefore don?t have any conclusions to offer. However, I can offer living proof that taking a risk in faith doesn?t result in death and may even lead to surprising joy. And I hope this issue provides the stories and thoughts of some who may lend insight to the strange and complex relationship between work and money.

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