Turn the clock back to seven months ago, and I’m sitting outside in Antigua, drinking Diet Cokes with Jamie, taking a break in between trips into a village in Guatemala where kids run around barefoot and moms cook dinner in a pot on an open fire. I had read about Jamie’s trip to Cambodia a couple of months before, and had followed along on Facebook. She had traveled with The Exodus Road to see what they’re doing to fight human trafficking and sex slavery. Her post was a hard read. While we’re sitting, I ask her about it. She tells me more than what she had shared on her blog.
Turn the clock back to ten years ago, and I’m at a benefit concert watching a friend’s band take the stage. The night’s proceeds go to benefit Love146 (then called another name), a non-profit organization – like The Exodus Road – committed to ending human trafficking. After the set ended, my friend (now my husband) hopped off the stage and a man took the microphone and told us that young girls are bought and sold, lined up in a room, identified by the numbers pinned to their dresses, where they can be purchased the way one purchases a meal at a fast food restaurant.
Pick up a paper today or do a quick google search on human trafficking and you’ll see that slavery is still alive and well. If you’re new here, click on my about page. There’s a photo of me there. I’m twice the age of some of the prostitutes in cities in SE Asia. I’m more than three times the age some children are sold by their families in order to pay off outstanding debts – or feed their other children.
Jamie’s going back to SE Asia with The Exodus Road, and this time, I’m going, too, along with Kristen Howerton (Rage Against the Minivan) and Heather Armstrong (Dooce). As Jamie put it: It’s gonna be like the most awesome week long squeally girls getaway ever! (Except, like, the exact opposite. Because slavery, butt-sweat, warm light beer, and trolling for underage prostitutes in a blacked out rental car are not my idea of an awesome girls getaway.)
Trips like this don’t happen without people asking good, hard questions. Why not do this in the US? Why not save the money spent on airfare and just put it towards the efforts? These questions are good ones (stay tuned for answers). I don’t want to go to SE Asia and slap a photo of a prostitute on my blog and call it a day. I don’t want to be the suburban church youth group member wearing new Nikes, pretending I have the skills to build a house in the Dominican, and going home feeling *omg super blessed* because I don’t have to walk around on a dirt floor. I don’t want to write poverty porn with a link-baiting title.
There’s a way to do this effectively, with dignity and grace. There’s a way to raise awareness or call attention to a concern without posting my bra color as my Facebook status or writing sensational titles fit for an Upworthy article. Four bloggers went to a brothel in SE Asia, and you won’t believe what happened next! There’s a way to make a real, tangible difference in the lives of many.
I hope I don’t let you down. I’ve sweated over this post, to be honest. This website is full of stick figures and GIFs and pop culture references, and then somehow now we’re also talking about social justice. I’m inconsistent. But, I feel like everything I do on this blog serves some sort of good. If it makes you laugh or shares an experience or teaches you something or even entertains you for five minutes, I think those are good things. Even if the blog post does nothing for you, usually the comments (full of great insights or lols) will redeem it. If I can use this space to raise awareness about some real evils going on in this world, I want to. With dignity and grace and sensitivity. This isn’t a game. I want to do it right.
Stay with me (please).
I also suspect that I may be the only extreme-hugger on the trip.
“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” – Henri Nouwen