Upon closer examination, we realized that many of our habits and material purchases were likely breaking God’s heart.In our quest for the lowest-priced-best-deals, we had been oblivious to looking beyond the price tag to see the actual costs of production: inhumanely long work hours, poverty-trapping pay, and unsafe working conditions - all byproducts of the shiny products in front of us. So, we asked ourselves these questions:
What if as Christians, we applied our faith by analyzing and altering our spending habits? What if we traded the quest for low-priced-deals, trendy items, and unnecessary splurges for products that poured love into and measurably improved the lives they touched? Products whose sale perpetuated a new economy based on love and seeking justice? What kind of crazy impacts might that have on global poverty, social justice and financial inequity?Bought Beautifully was created out of our desire to act on these questions. The Making of a Decision Up until joining BB's staff, I had been a very manly cheerleader, praising God's goodness and Emily's hard work from the sidelines - serving on the board of directors, supporting at home, mopping floors, building display pieces and participating in the occasional fashion show or photo shoot. I can't really explain it, but over the past two years, I became more and more affected by the work of our partners. I had a front row seat to understanding the challenges our partners face, but also the real transformations that are happening because of their work, devoted servant leadership, and ultimately, the reality of God's love for all people. I eventually got to a place where, in my greatest moments of clarity, it was hard to ignore the life teachings of Jesus, not to mention the promptings that I continued to feel on my heart. I don't want to come across as overly dramatic, that's not who I am, but this decision has seemed to carry more weight than any other one I've made. If you’ve met Emily even for just a minute, you know she is authentically inspiring – so much so that this past July, after more than a year of anticipation and planning, I officially stepped away from my former career to join her in chasing our common passion for Bought Beautifully. So - here I am, experiencing new highs and lows like never before. Seeing our world through a very different lens, having newfound time to spend wrapping my mind and heart around what it looks like to heed Jesus' call to love God and our neighbors, and trying to escape the temptation to second-guess whether we have made "the right" or "responsible" decision. With this transition to working as a full-time volunteer with Bought Beautifully, we have doubled-down on our commitment by throwing our lives behind Bought Beautifully and the work our partners are doing around the globe. A Big Question - An Unknown Answer Wait, Colin, did you say volunteer - how does that work for your family? It works OK now but obviously isn't sustainable forever. That said, we're going into this with a long-term mentality and have planning and saving for some time now to be able to take this risk. Ultimately, we hope that by increasing BB's capacity now, we'll be more effective in bringing our partners' products to a larger market. If and when this happens, BB should be able to sustain some level of full-time staffing. After all, we make sure our partners pay fair wages, so I suppose we should plan to eventually pay fair wages too, right? Like any start-up business, we understand that in the early years paying salaries isn't the highest priority...our hope is to hang in there until a higher sustainable threshold is reached. And why are we even talking about compensation? The reason compensation is important is that it makes the Bought Beautifully model sustainable into the future and not just a flash-in-the-pan charity project dependent on a few do-gooders that may come and go. Encouraging Encouragers Thankfully, I’ve been constantly encouraged in my new role learning from and being challenged by wise and talented disciples, theologians and activists, including Shane Claiborne, a Christian author. Shane is gifted at poking holes in the walls that we Christians have been building around our self-defined world for years. Shane has a great quote about serving and mission that I want to share with you. I think it does a nice job of communicating the holistic view we take towards living out Christ's love through our work at Bought Beautifully. That’s great isn’t it? Bought Beautifully is a lot of things but it is decidedly not just a short-term charity project to “give people fish”. While we believe in living generously, we don’t believe in perpetuating injustice through anyone’s continued dependence on hand-outs or pity purchases. And as I mentioned before, we don't want it to just rely on the goodwill of a few people - we want it to work as a successful business in the reality of our market-based economy.