Sunday, March 16, 2008

The One Month Challenge Draws to a Close ...

The Jewish Prophet Hillell said - "that which is hurtful to ANOTHER, you do not do - EVER"

Jesus used Hillel's wisdom and said - "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Even modern service clubs like Rotary have taken the concept of justice and fairness to heart by crafting things like their 4-Way test that has the members of the club asking themselves simple questions about the nature of the transactions and decisions they are making, and whether they are hurtful to another ...

The implication is, that if something you as a person do is hurtful to another - DON'T DO IT.

Like Gandhi said - "be the change you seek ..."

Long ago I discovered not only Fair Trade, but a number of companies that actively promote Fair Trade and bring high quality products to the Canadian Market. One of the first was Level Ground Trading from the Victoria area. Their coffee Cafe San Miquel, (dark roast) has long been a favourite of mine. Over the last ten years I have ordered THOUSANDS of pounds of their coffees (and likely consumed several hundred personally), visited their production facilities, talked to them on the phone, and written several papers on their work.

Along the way I've contacted and built relationships with other companies like Bean North, Just Us, Marquis Project and of late a little company in Manitoba called Green Bean Coffee Roasters ... all the while looking at how I could promote these companies and their products to the community around me ... I've done this in my ministry, and of late have been doing it as a friend and employee of Chipperfield Coffee Company in Minnedosa ...

This past month Chipperfield Coffee Company engaged the One Month Challenge promoted by Fair Trade Manitoba. It meant serving Fair Trade products to the customers where ever possible. We started with coffee, and a limited selection of tea, and expanded into chocolate and other products. The reception by the community seemed good ...

The idea of supporting Fair Trade was one that was welcomed by many in the surrounding community. The idea that 20-30% of the final purchase price of a bag of coffee goes DIRECTLY into the hands of the producer appeals to many ... could you imagine doing that for a loaf of bread, or a box of corn flakes?? Not too mention other agricultural products!!!

But moreover, the simple fact that every step of the journey of fair trade products from the fields to our table, are premised on JUSTICE, FAIRNESS and the right of HUMAN DIGNITY is what fuels this movement. The emphasis on caring for and caring about the people involved is central - Fair Trade is about MORE than economic justice for the poor third world farmers, it's about ensuring that EVERYONE involved is treated with dignity and treated fairly, and that at the end of the day are not left hurt in any way.

They are noble and lofty goals. And the actualization of those goals by the companies who bring Fair Trade products to our tables is what has always motivated me to be a Fair Trade promoter. The entire journey from field to table must be about dignity for all, fairness for all, and justice for all.

That is why I cringe when I see companies like Safeway, Wal-Mart and Starbucks involved in Fair Trade. This is NOT just about getting the product into the hands of consumers. It's about EVERY STEP of the journey being based on more than profits.

Foundational in ALL of this is the understanding that people MUST come before PROFITS, and that the dignity, fairness and justice are not just lofty concepts but basic human RIGHTS.

So, it is with a broken heart that I watch this One Month Challenge draw to a close because on one hand it has been successful. Patrick from Fair Trade Manitoba reports that 800 plus participants in the Fair Trade Challenge consumed OVER 17 000 cups of Fair Trade Coffee in the last 30 days, and those statistics do not include the coffee sold in places like Chipperfield Coffee Company to people who were NOT actively participating in the challenge!!!!

But, I carry a deep personal grief in this. As this challenge draws to a close my association with Chipperfield Coffee Company has also come to end ... my place there as employee, customer and ultimately friend has been savagely consumed by the mob mentality of small town politics that demanded the owner/management protect their business and profits over people and principles ... after two and a half years of abuse, the mob wasn't happy taking from me my job, my reputation, my security and my self-definition ... they will not be content until I have NOTHING LEFT. Fortunately, they will never take from my my pride and my principles.

At the end of the day I can still look in the mirror and have no twinges of regret or remorse for any thing.

It's a sad day on many levels, but then as I have come to realize over and over in recent days - this ultimately is NOT my loss ... Fair Trade is about Fairness at all levels ... and it is about embodying the very principles that were spoken by the likes of Hillel, Jesus, The Rotarians who crafted the 4-Way test and others who understand Gandhi's idea of being the change you seek ... not just when it is convenient, but ALWAYS !!!

Today I will pour my cup of Fair Trade Coffee, obtained from The Marquis Project in Brandon, shortly knowing that in ALL things I HAVE endeavoured to live those principles in my life, both personal and professional ... and that WILL never change ...

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