Bangladesh Artisans

8600465534_0cdaf87863_z (3)As part of the “What I Want My Daughter to Know” series, I’m sharing on behalf of Ten Thousand Villages today – and thrilled for the opportunity to share my heart on what I want my daughter to know about fair trade.

Child, these days we’re doing our best to teach you to play with others. You’re pretty good for your twenty-six months of experience, but playtime is often a losing battle when combining multiple two-year-olds and a room full of toys. Regardless of what you already have in your hand, it always seems that what your friend has is what you want. There are howls and tears and pinching and chaos when the situation seems unfair. Even we adults can be so embarrassingly loud, pitching fits when we feel that life isn’t fair to us.

Really, when we’re strong-arming you to share and take turns, we hope we’re getting you to practice being kind and fair to your friends instinctually, helping you express compassion and do the right thing, rather than demanding your own way.

As an only child, life is more than fair to you. We dote on you and you have access to most everything you could ever need, and many of the things you could ever want. With the privilege of growing up in middle-class Canada, you’ve got options and advocates and opportunity. It’s a good thing, and certainly nothing to be ashamed of or despise. You are receiving good things, and we want you to grow and thrive and live fully.

I want you to know, daughter of mine, that children in our own communities and in nations around the world also deserve to be treated fairly, and the pursuit of living justly and choosing mercy is the right response to your privilege. I want you to know that in our day-to-day lives, we have multiple chances to make choices to give back, be fair, and ensure that other children and families around the world have the opportunities they deserve – basic things like going to school and eating breakfast, and being paid fairly for a job well done. Things you’ll likely never have to think twice about.

This morning, my sparkle-loving girl, you spotted my necklace (handmade in India, fairly traded, and GORGEOUS) and, seemingly awe-struck, you said, “Oh, wow…”

That’s the right response, Child. More than anything, I want you to know that there is remarkable joy in acknowledging, appreciating and esteeming the work of those who create beauty for us. Those mamas in India who strung the beads of my necklace together. Those valuable hands that shaped the mugs that hold our coffee, and picked the beans to make the brew. The artisans who know they have opportunity as they craft our Christmas tree angel.

Those lives and hearts and families are the reason we are practicing the habit of choosing fair trade. They deserve to be valued.

Once we start practising fairness in our daily activities, whether as a toddler or an adult, it becomes normal. Our small, instinctual behaviours – whether in the playroom or when we’re shopping – tell us a lot about who and what we value and love. Our momentary thoughtless gain can be someone else’s lifetime loss, and I’m learning slowly but surely that it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s not the way to live fully.

Let’s choose joy and life and compassion, and the treasure of truly playing well with others. (And drinking fair trade coffee – lots and lots of fair trade coffee.)




Ellen Graf-Martin Ellen Graf-Martin is a West Coast, Vancouver Island, slightly-granola girl who traveled for a decade, returned to Canada, married an amazing man, and ended up living crazy cross-cultural in Southwestern Ontario Mennonite farm country where she and her husband work, laugh, and enjoy life generously with their sweet baby girl. By day, she’s the founder of Graf-Martin Communications – and by night, mama, wife, blogger, dreamer and creative DIY’er.


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