Hey all! I’m in Chicago. In a few days, Jordan and I will be taking a train up to Michigan to spend Thanksgiving with his family, but as of right now, I haven’t even seen him yet. These first few days I’m visiting my friends at good ol’ Wheaton College. It’s weird being back. Being with the people I love isn’t weird; it’s totally natural. It’s just being in this place again that’s so strange. I feel like college was ages ago. So much has happened in my life since I walked across a stage to accept a diploma. Yet while all that was happening, all my friends have still been here doing their college thing, taking classes, studying for tests, and being in clubs. It’s not even second semester for them yet! That blows my mind. And I haven’t even walked around campus at all or gone to any of my old favorite places yet. I got here around midnight last night, so all I’ve really done is drive to Wheaton, go to the store to get piles of junk food, watch a movie while eating said piles, stay up until five in the morning talking with my old roommate, sleep, and then wake up five hours later cursing myself for staying up so late and convincing myself to write this blog so that I don’t need to worry about it tomorrow (which I plan on devoting exclusively to hanging out with my church family in West Chicago). So, basically, not a ton of sight-seeing so far. But it is going to happen. And when it does, I’m fairly positive that it will be weird.
Are you ready for the part where I apply my personal ramblings to the abolitionist movement at large? Great, here it is: I feel like that same feeling of “why is everyone still in the same place I used to be when I’m over here now?” can happen when you start to learn about modern slavery, too. Once you understand how serious and widespread it is, it takes ahold of your life and you can’t unknow what you now know. Then, if you’re like me, you want to do something about it, and as you start learning about ways to do that, it starts to be strange when someone else doesn’t know about them. For example, I now feel really weird when I’m shopping with someone and they casually reach for a product that I know comes from a company with an F on Free2Work. I just do; I feel weird. I have this moment of “don’t they know?”, followed closely by a moment of “oh, probably not….”, and it’s weird.
So here’s the difference between those two somewhat similar feelings. It’s strange for me to see my friends still in college, but not because there’s anything wrong with them being there. College is great! It’s different from where I am now, but that’s not really important. It wouldn’t make any sense for me to tell them all to just stop going to school and work for a non-prof somewhere so that we can relate more. It doesn’t work like that. But telling someone about human trafficking isn’t quite the same. You can share what you know and empower people to make responsible choices because it’s important, not because you just want them to be like you. And, to be clear, I’m not necessarily advocating just going off on a harangue in the grocery store every time someone you know reaches for a product that doesn’t have a transparent supply chain. But last night, for example, when my roommate suggested that we add ice cream to our growing pile of snacks, I said, “Sure, but can we get this brand? It’s fair trade, and that makes me want to support them.” So we did. And sometimes that’s all it takes to start a conversation.