How I became a modern-day abolitionist
I want to share a story about how I was broken by a book.
It turned me inside out and left me weeping on the floor of my bedroom in a sobbing, ugly mess.
It was horrific and beautifully written and shattered my heart, and I hope I never become numb to the pain it put there. But it did leave me with hope.
The most wonderful part is that I wasn’t even looking for it. I was wandering the bookstore about four years ago, perusing through the history section for more materials to use as research for Firebrand. In particular, I wanted to know more about the abolitionists of the 19th century–how they worked to end slavery in the United States, what challenges they faced, the tactics they used.
Just beyond the history section were the Young Adult books, and one little yellow paperback book caught my eye as I passed. On the cover was a girl with haunting eyes and one simple word above her head:
Written by Patricia McCormick, Sold is a fictional tale of thirteen-year-old Lakshmi from Nepal who is sold into slavery and prostitution in India. It’s told in vignettes, short but powerful. **It has also been made into a film, produced by Emma Thompson. Not sure about any release dates, but see the trailer here.**
I read it in one sitting, though I had to put it down more than once just to cry, because despite being fiction, I knew this was the story of many girls around the world.
A few particular moments that broke my heart:
- When Lakshmi realized her body is sold to men for the same price as a Coca-Cola.
- When she is so hungry that she swallows her spit and pretends it’s soup to feel full.
- Realizing that my ability to read and grieve over the sufferings of this fictional girl, while surrounded by the comfort of my own room, was an extravagant luxury.
For some reason, I remember being cut to pieces thinking about all of the stupid decorative pillows in my room and understanding that there are human beings around the world that don’t even have a bed to sleep on, much less a pillow. And I was ashamed of how blind I’ve been in my own comfort.
Sold opened my eyes to just a glimpse of the reality of poverty, and it’s relationship to trafficking. And to one horrifying truth:
Slavery never ended.
(Interesting fact: I walked out of the bookstore with two books that day, Sold, and Radical by David Platt. You can’t tell me God wasn’t trying to show me something! I ended up finishing both books on the same day–I highly recommend both.)
Not long after I finished the book I discovered a conference at a nearby church focused on human trafficking awareness. I learned the statistics you may have heard: Over 27 million people enslaved around the world, forced to work in brothels, brick kilns, factories, mines… and that it even occurred in my own privileged country, even in my own state. In my “backyard.” And I knew I had to do something, even if just a little something. I didn’t (and don’t) want to slip back into my blind contentedness.
I’m sharing this because January is Human Trafficking Awareness month, and I could have posted the statistics, but I believe stories are more powerful. Though cynics can scoff at the various social media driven efforts to promote a cause, awareness is crucial. Nobody can do anything until people are aware there is a problem.
So if you’re still reading this, I pray that your heart has been touched, and urge you to learn more, read Sold, create awareness. I have gathered a list of resources–books, films, websites and videos–incomplete, but it’s a start.
I have also created a “Freedom Fighters” team via the End It Movement’s website. Please consider joining–even if you can only donate a dollar. You can read on their site where the money goes. Then you can create your own team, invite your friends and family to give–you get the idea. (no longer available–thanks for donating!)
Even if you cannot donate, help spread the world. Educate yourself, and others around you. It can be overwhelming, yes–but should we not be at least burdened? And what is our discomfort in comparison to the sufferings of the enslaved?
Let’s be modern-day abolitionists, and give hope to people like Lakshmi.
Thanks for reading!