What Moves Me

What moves your heart?

I stared at the question on my screen, a million possibilities running through my head.

This is your problem, I thought. Simplification is the life and death scenario here.

What is it? What is the singular thing that everything else is tied to that excites me, moves me, shows me that the world can be a better place? 

I procrastinate. Send some emails. Make lunch. Brush the dog. Simplicity is the hardest thing, but I've come to understand that it's what makes or breaks a brand. A singular message, one thing that drives it all. You can't have multiple steering wheels on a vehicle. Only one can effectively steer.

Deep down, I know. I can put a finger on what it is that drives me, but putting into a simple sentence is hard.

Reminding each person of their potential impact. 

When I get to say, "hey you, yeah you, the one that thinks they have no influence. You are so important and can do so much. Don't ever forget that." Because here's the thing: if we each take responsibility for our world, if we make intentional decisions, that becomes infectious. Others take notice. There's no way they can't. And that's how we become better together. Because your passion will inspire. It will bring people together. It will create community. And together, we can change the world. We can't pass that responsibility on anymore. We have to take hold and do something.

Perhaps that's it. It could really be that simple. 

Because do you know what you can do?

I don't have what most would think of as influence. Most people don't know who I am. I never would have thought that I could inspire anyone else. My circle does not have long arms to reach where some others can. I don't know celebrities, or powerful dignitaries. I don't know anyone but ordinary people.

But that's it right there. It's the ordinary, everyday people that can have the most impact. There are billions of us, the everyday with a small circle of influence in our family and friends.

It's a wildfire effect, when passion ignite the same in others. It can be scary to become so pregnant with your passion that it is obvious to everyone else, but that's what being unbrave means.

You have impact. Don't forget that.


I'm Angry

I found myself angry today. My social media feeds were once again flooded by what was being called another racial incident involving the police and the black community. Sometimes, I feel like I don't recognize the world I live in, with all of the horror and hate and death and violence. I don't understand why racism still exists and why I need to be concerned about the working conditions of the factory that made my phone. I'm angry that the world is a hurtful place.

I'm angry that the black community is struggling with an unfair system. I'm angry that the police as a whole are being judged by the actions of a few. I'm angry that religious factions are fighting in the Middle East. I'm angry that ISIS is beheading children for their faith. I'm angry at the turf wars between the gangs in Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Guatemala City. I'm angry that people who want to work can't get a job because they live in a slum. I'm angry that children with jiggers in Africa are outcasts because they can't afford shoes.

I'm angry.

I'll be frank and say that my child-like mind cannot grasp why hatred exists. Black children and white children can play together peacefully and the grown-ups are thrown into the us versus them camps. Though, they're not thrown into those camps, not really. They often place themselves there.

Why? It makes me angry.

We are all people. We are all made of the same flesh and blood and organs. We are all the same.

I'm angry because I don't have a solution. I'm angry because we never get the full story. I'm angry because media interviews with people who witnessed the same situation are vastly different. I'm angry because our world is not a kinder place.

I wish I had answers. I wish that people would understand that if we all took the time to get to know each other, we'd realize there was nothing to hate.

Basically, I wish I were in heaven.

It's Not About Me

Last night, a friend posted an article to my Facebook wall entitled “Buy These Pajamas and Rescue a Prostitute; Or, Why Rescue Brands are Dumb.” I love when people think of me when reading things like this for so many reasons, primarily because tends to start a tirade of people posting their thoughts and opinions and it gets important conversations going. The author of this article was unnecessarily obnoxious and I don’t agree with all of her thoughts and assessment of so-called “rescue brands,” but I would read it a thousand times over simply for her last sentence.

“I'd want someone to say to her—just one person other than her shrink—‘Lady. This isn't about you.’”

Rescue brands are not dumb, for the record, nor do I consider The Root Collective to be a rescue brand. We are focused on partnership, on linking arms with people who are already doing something within their communities, with or without me. It’s also important to me that my business be promoting skills that can be used locally in their own community and society, because I might get hit by a bus tomorrow, and if they’re relying solely on export trade for their livelihood, that won’t be helpful to anyone. That is often one of the main critiques to social enterprises, and it's one that I happen to agree with.

The author of that article missed so many points of the reality of poverty. She likely doesn’t realize the social stigmas that surround the poor. She likely doesn’t understand that for some women, prostitution is essentially the only option because no one will hire them simply because of where they live. She doesn’t comprehend that violence against women is a huge issue for employment and education. She doesn’t get that girls in Guatemala have a school that they can attend, but the fear of getting raped on the way there keeps them at home, and therefore uneducated and unable to get a well-paying job. She doesn’t talk about any of that and oversimplifies an issue that I know that I’ve only barely begun to comprehend.

But the point that she does hit head on is that poverty alleviation is not about us. It never should be. The Root Collective is a for-profit business, and is something I've been criticized about, for a very intentional reason: I want to approach these artisans as an equal. I don’t want it to be uneven footing where a nonprofit is coming in to “help.” We shouldn't be placing ourselves in a superior position to people living in poverty. We shouldn't call them "the least of these" or the "less fortunate." We shouldn't say that we're "blessed" to live in a first-world country.

There have been so many times that a very well-intentioned woman will say to me, “I want to buy your shoes because it’s such a good cause.” My tongue turns into a bloody pulp from biting it in order to refrain from screaming, “PEOPLE ARE NOT CAUSES.” We have become so used to viewing the vulnerable, marginalized and poor as a project. We want to help, and that comes from such a good place, but it is kindness misplaced. 

I don’t want to help. I want to partner. I want to do something with people who live in the hard places to create a kinder world together.

I don’t have it all figured out. Chances are, I’ll look back in five years from now and realize that I caused more harm than good in some areas. Recently, I was lamenting to a friend about a few slow business weeks and stated how I couldn’t help be feel responsible for the fact that the artisans were without work. A friend of mine said gently, “their livelihood is not dependent on you. It never will be.”

Score one for humility. I am continuing to work against the narcissistic nature of being human and taking myself out of the center. It should never be about me.

If We're Being Honest

18 months in with a business that is growing steadily every day. This week, we hit the same sales total of all of last year at The Root Collective. It's May. That milestone is so beyond amazing and I'm so grateful. But if we're being honest...

I struggle with insecurity that this business will fail every single day. If we're being honest.

I think that faith and trust that God's got me has been my biggest lesson during this journey. Every single day, I hear that voice that tells me that it is simply not enough and that I'm failing. Every single day, I wonder when the bottom is going to drop out. Every single day.

And, if we're being honest, I wake up at 3AM every single night in a panic that I'm failing. If we're being honest, my faith has so much growing to do.

I don't know why it's so easy to forget that God has good things for us. That doesn't mean they're not hard things, but He sees the end of our path and He looks at it and says, "it is good." I'm learning that even if that were to happen, even if The Root Collective were to fold, it would still be a good plan. It would lead me somewhere else where I'm supposed to go, and my faith would be increased.

But in the meantime, I'll press on and remember that verse. I'll remember that God has good things. And, if I'm being honest, it will continue to be a struggle, but I will grow because of it. Because this isn't about success or failure, it's about trust. That's never an easy lesson, but I know it's a worthwhile one.