Slideshow image

By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle

On April 24, 2015, a non-profit named Fashion Revolution set up a vending machine in Berlin inviting people to buy plain white t-shirts for 2 Euros. People love a bargain and happily inserted their coins.

Before the shirt was dropped, a video played showing how such shirts are made. In this video, purchasers learned that the workers are often underage, working 16 hours a day, for as little as 13 cents an hour. They saw images of workers and their working conditions. They were challenged to consider the morality of their purchase and then given a choice: take the t-shirt or donate the money. You can see the video here:

What would you do? When you heard about the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh on Apr. 24, 2013, to what extent did that influence your choices in the days, months, and years that followed? Does that story still influence your choices?

What do you do to educate yourself about the implications of the choices we make? To what extent are you aware of the reality that dyes from our clothing often pollutes the waterways around the factories, prematurely betraying the predominant colours for the upcoming season? Are you certain that the chocolate you want to buy for Easter is not harvested by children in conditions that expose them to harmful pesticides?

How much do you know about the conditions under which the cows, pigs, and chickens live and die to provide you with your meat, eggs, and dairy products? Are you able to identify which companies pay employees so little that they need to use the food banks to which the company invites customers to donate?

How much do we really know about the things we buy, the ways these are produced, and the ways resources within the company are distributed? To what extent does/should/would this knowledge impact our choices? Given the option to continue to support a system that exploits people and creation or donate to make a difference, what would we do? What would you do?

On Ash Wednesday the celebrant says: I invite you therefore, in the name of the Lord, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and by reading and meditating on the word of God. (see BAS p. 282).

This leads us to a recitation of Psalm 51:1-18 and the litany of penitence. The words of this litany are powerful, inviting us to reflect on what we have done and what we have left undone. How individual and collective actions have implications.  The extent to which we have been distracted by worldly goods (see BAS p. 283-284) These are all confessed. We are marked by ashes as a sign of our mortality and penitence. We carry this sign into our observance of Lent.

What will you do this Lent to embody this invitation, penitence, and prayer? How will you use this as an opportunity to deepen your knowledge, to explore the impact of your choices, and to create spaces in which you come face to face with hard truths in the hopes of inspiring transformation? To what extent will this Lent become an avenue to drawing you, drawing us, into the new life and hope promised in Easter?

Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is a tri-chair of SEJH and a tri-chair of Justice League of Huron.